With effect from the beginning of this year, consumer law has been amended to introduce important changes, including those implementing the Omnibus Directive. The law imposes new duties on the owners of consumer-oriented on-line stores and services which publish their customers’ reviews.
As of 1 January 2023, such a store should inform consumers whether, and if so then how, it ensures that the consumer reviews it publishes originate from real purchasers.
The information should not be laconic and the notice should state whether processes and procedures are in place to ensure review authenticity and, if so, what are those processes and procedures.
The store should also describe how reviews are processed, e.g. :
– if all reviews, either positive or negative, are posted;
– if reviews can be moderated,
– if they are sponsored,
– what is the order in which they are displayed.
Where products are scored on the basis of purchasers’ reviews, the store would do well to provide a precise description of the scoring method. If a store pursued the practice of highlighting certain reviews or organising review contests, this can also be relevant information to be disclosed.
Notice with customer in mind
The law is silent on how the store should give the required information to customers. For sure the notice should be written in a clear language that is comprehensible for an average consumer.
Furthermore, the notice should serve its purpose and be easily reachable for potential customers. Thus, it does not seem correct to stop at merely including the required information in the terms of service or use. While this can be one of the ways to communicate it (and one to be rather treated as an additional compliance effort), the product page, and especially the consumer reviews tab, is the chief place where the information can be published. You can also design a special dedicated tab for the disclosure. Such a tab should be clearly visible and easily accessible.
– The Act of 1 December 2022 to amend the Consumer Rights Act and certain other acts (Journal of Laws, item 2581)
– Directive (EU) 2019/2161 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 November 2019 (OJ L 328, 7)
The Omnibus Directive mentions disclosure duties. But in many cases these will need new IT or organisational solutions to ensure the authenticity of consumer reviews. This is important. If a store warrants to consumers that the reviews are authentic but does not have appropriate authenticity verification processes in place, it risks legal liability. It can be charged with engaging in unfair commercial practices or harming collective interests of consumers. The penalty can potentially reach as much as up to 10% of annual turnover.
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