As more marketing departments lean into generative artificial intelligence (AI), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed a new rule that bans companies from using fake customer reviews and engaging in illicit endorsement practices.
The Proposed Rule
The FTC’s proposed rule would prohibit buying positive or negative reviews, suppressing honest negative reviews and buying fake social media indicators such as likes, followers and views. It would also bar companies from writing reviews of their own products and services, among other illegitimate practices.
“Our proposed rule on fake reviews shows that we’re using all available means to attack deceptive advertising in the digital age,” says Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The rule would trigger civil penalties for violators and should help level the playing field for honest companies.”
FTC officials say such illicit practices deceive consumers looking for real feedback on a product or service and undercut honest businesses. Officials cited examples of deceptive practices involving consumer reviews and testimonials from past cases. They also noted the emergence of generative AI, which makes it easier for bad actors to write fake reviews.
The FTC is now fielding comments on provisions in the proposed rule. After the agency reviews the comments, it will decide whether to take additional steps toward finalizing the rule.
PPF Shops Respond
“There’s a lot of people in our industry right now that have big names,” says Randy Humphries, owner of Tint Works TN in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “They’re not organic. They’re all paid for. But it makes them look good in the eyes of their customers. You’re getting a shop that doesn’t do great work, but their paid reviews make them look like a powerhouse. You’re tarnishing shops that do great work without paid reviews.”
Humphries says he’s 100% for the FTC’s proposed rule on reviews. For organic reviews containing negative feedback, he says it’s best to respond in a helpful manner.
“We’re all human, we all make mistakes,” he says. “How you handle that review will go a long way with your future customers because they can see how you handled the situation. It isn’t the end of the world if you get a bad review. But [respond] in a professional manner.”
“I think it would level the playing field,” Tyler Gilliard, owner of Tint By Tyler in Lakeland, Fla., says of the FTC’s proposed rule. “A huge multi-million dollar company can buy reviews and leads. Someone who is just starting—they have to hustle to get more customers and reviews. There wouldn’t be an unfair advantage of getting fake reviews.”
Bernice Berry, owner of Pure Luxury Tint and Detailing Services in Chandler, Ariz., adds, “It will keep people honest and create a level playing field.”
Contributing editor Jesse Burkhart assisted with this story.