Are fake Google reviews illegal?
Most fake Google reviews that were paid for are illegal in most countries. And the penalties for violating consumer protection regulations can be quite steep.
Even if a fake Google review is not paid for, it may still be illegal if it violates a variety of other laws or regulations common in most countries.
However, there are actually some fake Google reviews are not illegal. But in all cases, fake reviews are a violation of Google’s policies and Google regularly deletes these reviews.
Fake Google reviews are illegal if they’re paid for
In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) considers a Google review to be an “endorsement.”
If that endorsement was paid for, the FTC requires that the review include a “disclosure” telling anyone who reads the review that it was paid for and who paid for it.
If the reviewer doesn’t include language like, “This review was paid for by ABC Company,” then the review is considered an “undisclosed paid endorsement,” which is a violation of FTC regulations.
Many other countries have similar regulations. So if you operate outside the US, you may want to look into the specific regional laws and regulations. But don’t be surprised if your region has similar consumer protection rules.
Penalties are steep
If you’re thinking of buying fake Google reviews, we strongly recommend you don’t do it.
That’s partly because paid-for fake Google reviews are illegal and you may get fined a lot of money.
The FTC has fined companies anywhere from $10,000 to over $3 million for violating this regulation by paying for fake online reviews.
But the other reason not to buy fake Google reviews is that there’s no need to, since it’s so easy to get perfectly authentic reviews from your real customers for free.
Check out our full article on why we recommend you don’t buy Google reviews and how you can get authentic reviews for free while also maximizing your overall Google star rating.
Also be sure to check out our ultimate guide on how to get Google reviews (without paying for them).
Many fake reviews are illegal even if they’re not paid for
Fake reviews are illegal if they make defamatory statements. When a reviewer makes defamatory statements in a fake Google review, the reviewer may be guilty of libel. (“Slander” is when the defamatory statement is spoken. “Libel” is when it’s written, including on the Internet.)
In order for a review to be considered libelous, it must make a false claim that does harm to the business.
It’s also possible—although more rare—for a fake Google review to violate copyright laws, making it illegal. To do this, the reviewer would need to share copyrighted content in the review itself, such as copyrighted images.
Full disclosure: We are not a law firm at Rising Star Reviews. So we don’t offer legal advice. If you think you’re the victim of a fake Google review that violates a law, you should seek advice from a practicing attorney for more information.
Some fake Google reviews are not illegal
The fact that it is “fake” is not enough to make a review illegal.
In most cases where a high number of fake reviews have been left for a business, those reviews were paid for, and therefore illegal. Either they’re positive fake reviews that the business owner paid for. Or they’re negative fake reviews that a competitor paid for to harm the reputation of the business.
But when we see an infrequent, occasional fake review every once in a while, that’s usually a review that has not been paid for. It’s usually just the occasional angry customer or former employee. In these cases, the review is often not illegal unless libelous statements are made.
Google deletes fake reviews (illegal or not)
Whether or not a fake Google review is illegal, all fake reviews are against Google’s policies.
Google deals with all fake reviews (illegal or not) the same way: Google deletes them.
So if your business is the victim of fake reviews, there’s no need to worry about whether the reviews are legal or illegal. Just ask Google to delete the review.