BY CATE ROCCHI, CEO PERTH MEDIA
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s legal action against Perth-based Aveling Homes last month sent a clear message – website testimonials are not just ‘advertising’ and digital content must be authentic and accurate.
Content creation should be informative and engaging but, most importantly, responsible. It cannot mislead. If it does, the consequences are severe. Carefully constructed brands and reputations, built over decades, can be skewered by court action overnight.
Commenting generally on the legal issues involved, Clare Pope – partner at Squire Patton Boggs in Perth – said: “There are a number of concerns with companies producing fabricated testimonials online, not least of which is the reputational damage which is suffered once this kind of thing comes to light.”
She said such behaviour was unethical and most likely to be illegal under the Australian consumer law, Competition and Consumer Act Cth (2010) (CCA).
Pope explains the CCA establishes a single national law for consumer protection and imposes statutory obligations on suppliers and manufacturers of goods and services which include prohibitions on false representations in relation to the supply of goods. It prohibits conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive.
The CCA has also introduced some new prohibitions relating to false or misleading representations, not included in earlier Australian consumer laws. These include prohibitions on false or misleading representations, regarding goods or services, that purports to be a testimonial by a person.
Ms Pope said these relatively new offences were clearly intended to capture the development and proliferation of review and testimonial websites.
“There are various ways in which reviews and testimonials could mislead consumers, and the ACCC isn’t just interested in fabricated testimonials produced by, or on instruction by, the company itself (for example paying someone to write the review or testimonial), but reviews written by competitors also come within the ambit of the ACCC’s scope to protect consumers,” she said.
With regards to Aveling Homes, the ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices, a compliance program, findings of fact and costs.
Perth Media’s writers produce authentic, high-quality and thoroughly researched content – including case studies and testimonials – to accurately portray your company’s services, stories and track record.
Our work is not overly enthusiastic marketing, it is grounded and focused on facts, and your company’s unique products and narratives.