Legal Brief: Product and Company Reviews Under Scrutiny

August 10, 2023
Security Business Magazine

Types : Bylined Articles

Proposed FTC rule would set clear regulations for published testimonials and reviews

In the old days, if you wanted to know whether a product was worth buying, you asked around. As technology developed, customers could post and read online reviews. Large retailers like Amazon, for example, offer online customer reviews for every product they offer to help prospective purchasers make informed decisions; however, this also presumes that the reviews are not fake or contrived.

Many years ago, I purchased my first wireless speaker. In the early days, customer reviews of the product were predominantly favorable; however, after several years, the company abandoned support for its old app and speakers, and in turn, the customer experience changed – particularly for legacy customers like me. Online reviews went from mostly good to mostly bad; however, what was curious (and remains curious), is that the overall numerical rating for the product never changed, staying at 4.7 out of 5.0 stars, despite bad review after bad review.

It occurred to me that maybe the customer review process is flawed. How could a product that abandoned its legacy customers and engendered such anger and disappointment maintain the same favorable rating? I do not mean to suggest that the company did anything illegal, but I am not naïve enough to think the company played no role in cultivating its own reviews…as many companies do.

Now, the law may have something to say about it.

In late June 2023, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a new rule to stop companies from using fake reviews, suppressing honest negative reviews, and paying for positive reviews.

While the proposed rule is not specific to the security industry, like most businesses, security companies rely on customer reviews to support and grow their businesses; thus, it would surely apply if enacted.