Become a master of user reviews,
without breaking the law.
Ratings and reviews are a key part of e-commerce. But what laws and regulations apply?
The aim of this article is to help you to follow the law when working with user reviews. This document is continuously updated. Any suggestions for improvements are sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this article, we use the term “user reviews”. The Norwegian Consumer Agency defines a user review as one «opinion or customer rating from a consumer who has tested, used, purchased or intended to purchase a product or service, and which has been submitted or published for the purpose of informing other consumers of their rating.»
The Norwegian Consumer Agency has again taken the definition from its Danish colleagues in the Consumer Ombudsman and the document «Guidelines for Publishing User Reviews, 1. maj 2015».
In practice, there are many forms of user reviews. In Lipscore, we work with product reviews, service reviews and store reviews.
There are mainly two laws that are particularly relevant if you work with user reviews. These are the Personal Data Act and the Marketing Act.
2.0 Storage of customer data
The Personal Data Processing Act (the Personal Data Act) is very relevant for those of you who work with user reviews and other forms of personal data.
But there is also a lot going on outside Norway’s borders that can have major consequences here in Norway. The so-called “Schrems II judgment” from the European Court of Justice is particularly relevant for companies that transfer personal data to countries outside the EEA.
Many of the major cloud-based service providers, including providers that collect user reviews, are located in the United States. There are many good US companies, but according to the regulations known as the USA PATRIOT Act, US authorities have the authority to access data. This applies not only to companies stationed in the USA, but also to subsidiaries in the EU.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority and EDPB (the overarching European Data Protection Authority) are clear that personal data cannot be sent out of the EU without, in addition to having a valid transfer basis, security measures being established that ensure the privacy of EU citizens is equivalent to the EU level. .
There is still a lot of ambiguity here, but in any case it will be problematic to use US providers to collect user reviews. We recommend everyone to familiarize themselves with how customer data is stored and handled for existing or planned technical solution to collect user reviews.
3.0 The Marketing Act
The Marketing Act entered into force 1. June 2009. The law is based on the EU directive on unfair commercial practices.
The Norwegian Consumer Agency is responsible for ensuring that the legal provisions are complied with (§35).
In the event of a breach of the Marketing Act or other legislation enforced by the Norwegian Consumer Agency, they may make decisions on prohibitions (§ 40), injunctions (§ 41), coercive fines (§ 42) and infringement fines (§ 43), cf. etc. § 39.The Consumer Agency’s decision can be appealed to the Market Council (§ 37).
Entrepreneurs who use user reviews to market themselves or their products in their own channels must of course follow the Marketing Act. You should especially note the following:
- No marketing measure shall be contrary to good business practice and constitute an unreasonable commercial practice (etc. 6).
- Consumers should not be misled as to what is the subject of assessment in user reviews (etc. 7).
- Marketing shall be designed and presented so that it clearly appears as marketing (§ 3).
The Norwegian Consumer Agency has prepared a good guide for you who want to get to know how to work with user reviews and at the same time stay within the Marketing Act. Based on this, we have made our own recommendations.
Let’s see how the Norwegian Consumer Agency recommends that you stay within the Marketing Act based on the legislation.
3.1 Real user reviews
The trader must not let other than real consumers write user reviews. You can not buy fake reviews or encourage employees or others to write reviews.
3.2 Neutral encouragement to write user reviews
Encouragement must not only be given to customers who can be expected to be particularly satisfied.
Encouragement must not only be given to customers who can be expected to be particularly satisfied. A reward scheme must not give the consumer the impression that there is a greater chance of winning if you write a positive user review. Terms and conditions for receiving a reward must therefore be clearly stated in the invitation.
3.3 Rewards and compensation for writing user reviews
If the customer receives rewards, compensation or the like for writing a review, this can affect how he or she reviews a product. Strong incentives, such as payment or receipt of free products, will quickly lead to the review being considered hidden advertising and not an ordinary user review.
3.4 Verified users
The Norwegian Consumer Agency encourages businesses to have systems that ensure that the user reviews are real and that the customers who mention a product or a business have actually used the product or service in question.
Such information may, for example, consist of name or username, IP addresses or login with the same account that has been used to complete a purchase.
3.5 Control of the content of the user reviews
The trader is responsible for the marketing in his channels. It also includes user reviews. The trader may have legitimate reasons for not publishing a user review, for example if the review is defamatory or false.
3.6 Moderation and censorship
The Norwegian Consumer Agency recommends that one should be very careful about moderating user reviews, as this will go beyond the credibility of the user reviews. Neither the consumers nor the trader benefit.
A trader can not delete negative user reviews, and only publish positive reviews.
One should also be careful about rejecting user reviews that one does not consider relevant. When opening up for user reviews, it should as a general rule be up to consumers to assess the relevance of the published user reviews.
Traders cannot reject or delete user reviews due to complaints or criticisms, even if the trader believes that customer service could handle the case. Instead, the trader is encouraged to respond to the user review with a comment to provide a more nuanced picture.
The Norwegian Consumer Agency recommends giving feedback to the person who has written a user review about why a user review may not be approved, so that the person in question has the opportunity to write a new review.
3.7 Responsibility for claims in user reviews
In user reviews, there may be incorrect claims from customers. As a general rule, it must be expected that consumers who read user reviews must be expected to understand that the trader cannot be held responsible for incorrect claims in individual reviews. The Norwegian Consumer Agency points out that actual claims in user reviews only become misleading within the meaning of the law if the trader has had an influence on the claims or if the trader uses claims made in user reviews in his own marketing and thus must be identified with the claim.
3.8 Real picture of users’ assessments
The Norwegian Consumer Agency recommends that you have systems that ensure that all user reviews that are published are presented neutrally and objectively, for example in chronological order, and that you do not create a misleading picture of the assessments.
In order to provide a sufficient indicative picture of what is being discussed, the number of consumers who have submitted user reviews must be stated.
3.9 Reviews written against payment or reward
Mixing real user reviews and advertising must be avoided, the Consumer Agency points out. If paid reviews are published in the same place as user reviews, there are strict requirements for separation. Paid reviews can also not be included in summaries of consumers’ assessments, such as in a star rating.
If a review is written for a reward (eg free products, payment or discounts), the review may be considered advertising. The Norwegian Consumer Agency points out that in a possible assessment, they will emphasize the value of the reward, neutrality in the solicitation, and how the reward scheme as a whole can affect the relevant reviews. If the incentive is weak, and is offered to all customers regardless of whether they write a positive or negative review, the user reviews can be regarded as ordinary user reviews, and not advertising.
Allowing customers to participate in the draw for a gift card, provided that it is made clear that the chance of winning does not depend on whether you write a positive or negative assessment, will normally be allowed.
If, on the other hand, consumers are asked to volunteer to receive a product or other service free of charge in exchange for writing a user review, the reviews will normally be regarded as advertising and should be treated accordingly.
3.10 Everyone has a responsibility
In the text above, we have focused on the responsibility of the trader. But remember that according to the Marketing Act (§ 39 third paragraph), decisions can also be directed at those who contribute to offenses.
This responsibility includes natural persons (eg general manager, board chairman or board members) in the company, but also other companies that have contributed to the offenses. This means that, for example, an advertising agency that has assisted in the design of the illegal marketing has a responsibility. The same goes for media or platforms that have conveyed the illegal message.
5.0 Lipscore guarantees
At Lipscore, we guarantee that:
- We store and process personal information in accordance with applicable privacy laws.
- Personal information you store with Lipscore belongs to your company, even after a possible termination of the customer relationship.
- We do not monitor personal information.
- Our customers and their end customers have the right to export or delete their personal information at their own request.
To become a customer of Lipscore, we expect that:
- The company complies with the Marketing Act and the recommendations given by the Norwegian Consumer Agency.
- The company uses all the customer insight you get through our tools to create good customer experiences.