Sunday 17 October 2021

Websites to be banned from using fake reviews, and removing bad ones

Webshops and digital platforms which place fake reviews on their sites, and remove bad ones, will be committing an offence from next year, if new legislation comes into effect.

The aim is to protect consumers from misleading information and to make it clear if reviews or high search engine rankings have been paid for, ministers say.

Any consumer reviews will have to be checked to see if they are genuine before they can be placed online and owners of online shops will not be allowed to remove unfavourable reviews.

Internet shops and platforms will also have to be transparent about payment for better search results and will have to inform consumers about how they deal with complaints about defective goods or services.

‘There is a world to win online where informing consumers completely and honestly is concerned ’, caretaker economic affairs minister Stef Blok said.

Tackling misleading information is long overdue, the minister said. Consumers will be better informed about the conditions of the purchase and will no longer have to search in vain for a way to call a webshop to account in case of a defective product or to make a return.

So-called ‘free’ digital services, like social media, which require a user’s personal data will also have to provide clear information about the length of the contract and how it can be ended. Consumers will also be entitled to end the contract within fourteen days. When they do, their data will have to be ‘returned’, meaning the provider will have to stop using it.

Companies can be fined 4% of their turnover if found in breach of the new rules.

The new rules will come into effect in all European countries as part of a European directive at the end of May 2022 and will also cover online purchases abroad.

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