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Don’t buy into fake online endorsements

Not all reviews are from legitimate consumers

July 28, 2014 — OTTAWA, ON — Competition Bureau

The Competition Bureau is encouraging consumers to be wary of fake online endorsements that give the impression that they have been made by ordinary consumers, when in fact they have been made by or on behalf of the business offering the product or service.

Known as "astroturfing", individuals or businesses may use this tactic to improve poor reviews in order to persuade consumers to purchase a particular product or service. The truth is, those posting these fake reviews have often never used the product or service they are recommending, and may be collecting a fee for posting positive feedback.

What are some potential signs of astroturfing?

  • A product or service has suddenly received great reviews.
  • The reviewer only recently created a user profile and has been actively providing positive feedback on a handful of products over a short period of time.
  • The reviewer’s tone is overly positive and makes it out to be "the best thing ever".
  • On the contrary, a fake review from a competitor may discredit the product while suggesting another.

How can consumers protect themselves from falling victim to astroturfing?

  • Consult multiple sources in order to determine which reviews are legitimate.
  • Search for reviews over a wide range of time.
  • Disregard the highest and lowest ratings — see what people in the middle are saying for a more accurate assessment.
  • Online reviews should only be one step in researching a product or service and take all feedback online with a grain of salt.

Consumers who believe they have been misled by fake online reviews and businesses that have been approached with offers to post fake reviews should contact the Bureau's Information Centre at 1-800-348-5358, or visit the Bureau's website, to file a complaint. Consumers can also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

Quick facts

  • According to a study by a data-mining expert, it is estimated that one-third of all online consumer reviews are fake.
  • Social media has become a major source of information for consumers seeking advice to guide their purchasing decisions and a prime platform for astroturfing.
  • Astroturfing negatively impacts consumers and competition in the marketplace by giving inferior businesses an unfair advantage by stealing customers away from legitimate competitors.

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Telephone: 819‑994‑5945

For general enquiries, please contact:
Information Centre
Competition Bureau
Telephone: 819‑997‑4282
Toll free: 1‑800‑348‑5358
TTY (hearing impaired): 1‑866‑694‑8389
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The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.

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