Fake consumer reviewers, beware

Lots of people are increasingly relying on sites like TripAdvisor, where consumers post reviews of places they've been. The dark side of this phenomenon is when, say, a hotelier posts a glowing review of their own place, posing as a customer, or conversly, slams a competitor. To stop this sort of misbehavior, according to this article in TimesOnline,

    Hotels, restaurants and online shops that post glowing reviews about themselves under false identities could face criminal prosecution under new rules that come into force next year.

    Businesses which write fake blog entries or create whole wesbites purporting to be from customers will fall foul of a European directive banning them from “falsely representing oneself as a consumer”.

But is regulation really necessary? From the examples I've read about, it's pretty obvious what's going on when you all of a sudden see glowing reviews nestled among irate rants about a hotel or restaurant. And the posers generally get caught, and then garner even worse PR for being jerks as well as providing inferior services. I'd say that customer reviews, like anything else, should fall under the old caveat emptor rule—let the buyer beware.

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