Beware of False Advertising
Consumers Should be Wary and Smart When Shopping Online
by Jenzl Guerrero, age 17
Shoppers want to be well aware of which products are good and
which ones are bad. It’s easy to tell when you visit a store and
examine it for yourself, but it gets much trickier online. Experts say
some online reviews are not actually consumer opinions, but are for-hire
endorsements or promotional material.
Jeff Hancock, a
psychologist and associate professor at Cornell, conducted a study that
estimated five percent of all online product reviews are planted by
companies to evaluate products to their own benefit.
2011, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer
protection agency, took up two cases dealing with deceptive advertising
and fake reviews. Both ended with charges.
Nashville-based Legacy Learning Systems was charged with using
affiliated marketers to falsely pose as independent reviewers in order
to advertise their guitar lesson DVDs in a positive light.
In the other case, employees of Reverb, a public relations firm hired
by video game developers, posted fake reviews to the iTunes store.
Mary Engle, the director of the FTC’s division of advertising
practices, encourages people to be cautious. When looking up reviews
that say they have viewed different products, but conclude that only one
is fit for selection, be suspicious. She says that the most extreme
comments should be viewed carefully as well.
online shopping has become popular, businesses are using it as an
opportunity to increase sales and to make their products appear
worthwhile. Unfortunately, not all product reviews can be trusted and
the internet is not always safe.
[Source: USA TODAY]