It's time to crack down on fake reviews

16 August 2022
It's time to crack down on fake reviews

Whether it's your website or someone else's, fake reviews are coming under renewed scrutiny and stronger penalties, says Marcin Durlak

The problem

New, more stringent rules around online reviews are under discussion. The UK government is proposing to outlaw paying someone to write a fake review and to place greater onus on hosting websites to check if their reviews are genuine.

It will also be made illegal for individuals and organisations to offer to write, source or organise fake reviews.

The law

Fake reviews are already illegal and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has powers to take civil or criminal action against those who write or commission fake reviews. The new laws will mean the CMA won't need to go through the courts to impose a financial penalty, which could amount to 10% of a non-compliant business's global turnover.

Expert advice

The intention is to give consumers better protection against the unscrupulous business practice of funding fake reviews. It will also have the added benefit of protecting hospitality businesses from damaging false critiques, which is something that many operators have struggled with, particularly over the pandemic.

Although applying to a different industry, a recent case involving a defamatory review on Trustpilot against law firm Summerfield Browne highlighted the detrimental impact such a review can have on a business, and who is responsible for removing it. In the end, Trustpilot had to take down the review when the perpetrator (an individual) refused to. It is therefore helpful that the government is looking to impose tighter restrictions on review websites under the new rules.

However, they will also place an extra burden on all businesses, and not just websites that host consumer reviews. Hospitality businesses will be under pressure to make sure they are neither hosting fake reviews on their own site nor encouraging their composition or distribution generally.


Businesses should review their practices by:

  • Making sure no employees are involved in participating in or commissioning fake reviews, as the company could be held liable for their action
  • Checking any agencies the business works with (for example, PR, marketing and search engine optimisation agencies) understand the implications of the new rules and will follow them
  • Training staff in the new rules, particularly in relation to their interactions with customers – any policies where the business offers free gifts, vouchers, drinks or meals in exchange for a positive review will need to be banned.


The true risk of not following these new rules is a fine of 10% of global turnover. It is therefore important for hospitality businesses to keep an eye on when these new rules become law, and start preparing now to combat fake reviews.

Although it has been a tough two years, businesses need to take these new rules seriously. In the long term, the elimination of fake reviews will help businesses maintain trust with the customer, and leave them better equipped to deal with fraudsters.

Marcin Durlak is a managing partner at IMD Solicitors

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