Fake Online Reviews: Regulatory Measures in the Making

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has confirmed that regulatory measures to effectively address the issue of fake online reviews are currently in the works.

A stakeholder consultation in this regard was held two days back. The Ministry’s press release highlights the significance of online reviews and their role in making purchase decisions.

In November 2022, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) launched a standard for organisations publishing consumer reviews online. The Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication’ elaborates on key aspects including the guiding principles, collection process, moderation process, and publication process (Click here to access the framework). The same is based on the international standard, ISO 20488:2018. Notably, review authors are required to provide an email address or contact number, and confirm that they have read and accepted the review site’s terms and conditions. On failure to do so, the permission to submit reviews would be refused. The responsibilities of review administrators have also been listed. For instance, the review administrator has to take the specified steps to safeguard the personal information of consumers.

However, this standard is for voluntary compliance. Its implementation is now sought to be mandated, with stakeholders agreeing to move towards a Quality Control Order (QCO) for the standard. The QCO will be finalised after its draft is placed for public consultation and the comments so received are considered.

The draft QCO envisages proscribing organisations from editing reviews to alter their message, dissuading consumers from submitting negative reviews, etc.