The law firm of Goodrich & Reely, PLLC, serves clients throughout Montana.

Lawsuit shows some of the trouble with fake online reviews

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2023 | Business Law

Montana businesses are experiencing an increasingly competitive marketplace. The Secretary of State’s office, which cut registration fees in 2021, reported nearly 53,000 new business registrations in 2022, breaking previous records. The office reports 5,400 new business registrations just in May of 2023.

It’s an exciting time for small business owners in the state, but it can also be a difficult time. How can a new business stand out from the competition and attract customers?

One way is through generating word-of-mouth online.

It’s increasingly common for consumers to read online reviews of local businesses when deciding where to shop for goods and services. These reviews, which pop up with a simple search through Google or another search engine, appear to reflect the thoughts of actual consumers, giving readers a realistic perspective of the business. However, the truth is that many of these reviews are fake. Some small businesses have had to contend with bad reviews that were submitted by business rivals posing as dissatisfied customers. Sometimes the problem is even more complicated than that.

Lawsuit over fake reviews

A recent lawsuit illustrates some of the difficulties surrounding online reviews.

Internet giant Google recently filed suit in federal court against a man Google accuses of using an elaborate scheme in which he used fake reviews for fake companies. He then sold these sales leads to other businesses.

According to Google’s lawsuit, the man created 350 profiles for fake companies and bought more than 14,000 fake reviews. He placed these businesses on Google Maps and other sites to attract interest from real consumers. He then sold the information.

Google says the man kept a workbench on which he would place various tools and goods to photograph for the purposes of advertising car repair, tree trimming, aromatherapy and other services.

Google accuses the man of false advertising, unfair business practices, violating Google’s terms of service and more.

Protect your business

If you are a new business owner, you have your hands full just getting your company running, attracting customers, managing employees and so on. You may not be thinking about how to contend with unfair trade practices from competitors. It is wise to talk to experienced professionals about how to protect your business.