The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a compliance bulletin on how companies can interact with consumer reviews, especially negative ones.
The bureau wants to ensure that customers can write reviews, particularly ones posted online, about financial products and services that accurately reflect their opinions and experiences. The importance of reviews in consumer choice can “ create an incentive for dishonest market participants to attempt to manipulate the review process,” the bureau said, “which can frustrate a competitive marketplace.”
Companies that post fake reviews or insert clauses that forbid a customer from publishing an honest review might violate the Consumer Financial Protection Act. Such clauses could undermine fair competition and constitute unfair or deceptive practices, and posting fake reviews is deceptive, the CFPB said. The agency promised to “ carefully scrutinize whether covered persons or service providers are skewing consumers’ understanding” reviews in deceptive, unfair or abusive ways.
“In America, no corporation should be able to silence a customer from posting an honest review online,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “Corporate disinformation campaigns that suppress legitimate reviews or manufacture fake reviews are not only a threat to free speech and fair competition, they are also illegal.”
President Biden has placed an increased emphasis on market competition, issuing an executive order promoting competition last summer. “Excessive market concentration threatens basic economic liberties, democratic accountability, and the welfare of workers, farmers, small businesses, startups, and consumers,” Biden said in the order.
The move mirrors efforts from the Federal Trade Commission’s to deter fake reviews and related fraud.