The Guide on Consumer Reviews Has Been Published!
The Advertising Board (“Board”) adopted the Guide on Consumer Reviews (“Guide”) as a principle decision in its meeting dated 12.09.2023 and numbered 337. The Guide was published on 18.09.2023. The Board presented the Guide as a guide for consumer reviews and rating practices, which are essential elements in consumers’ shopping preferences and significantly influence their purchasing decisions, as well as their experiences and experiences related to consumer reviews and ratings.
Consumer reviews are a powerful tool in the online economy to build trust and reputation. These reviews can be done through various methods such as commenting, sharing photos, rating, and giving stars. It is observed that the reviews made by consumers about products and sellers have a significant impact on the shopping decisions of other consumers. In addition, online feedback mechanisms like consumer reviews are not only beneficial for consumers but also necessary for sellers or platforms for brand building, customer acquisition and retention, product development, and quality control and supply chain assurances in e-commerce. The impact of consumer reviews in the e-commerce sector has made it necessary to define the boundaries of this field through regulation.
Before examining the obligations introduced by the Guide, it is necessary to clarify which reviews are excluded from its scope. For example, are tweets or stories about a product subject to these rules? Article 2/3 of the Guide provides clarity on this matter. According to this:
- Reviews made on the internet environment owned by an individual without being dependent on a product seller or online marketplace (e.g., Twitter, Instagram, blog websites, etc.) and providing information about the experience related to a product or service,
- Reviews related to experiences that do not involve consumer transactions (such as transactions between two traders/merchants),
are excluded from the scope.
Firstly, it should be noted that consumer reviews can pertain to the ease, promotion, sale, supply, delivery, return process, and payment or insurance processes related to the relevant product or service. All comments, ratings, or star ratings made by a person who orders a product from an online marketplace’s “review page” about the marketplace, seller, or courier company, for example, are considered consumer reviews.
The Guide states that sellers or online marketplaces can increase their opportunities to publish consumer reviews by mutual agreement. For example, consumer reviews may be possible as follows:
|Platform for Shopping||Platform for Review Sharing|
|Store of Seller X||Website of Seller X|
|Store of Seller X||Page of Seller X on Online Marketplace A|
|Platform for Initial Review Sharing||Platform for Subsequent Review Sharing|
|Online Marketplace Y||Online Marketplace Z (from Online Marketplace Y)|
The Guide prohibits third-party arrangements or collaborations for making deceptive reviews for the purpose of increasing demand for a product or service. Such reviews will be explicitly misleading.
One of the most important provisions of the Guide concerns whether consumer reviews published on the internet will be published in other media such as television, brochures, or magazines. As a rule, all reviews except those that contain health claims contrary to their own legislation made in the reviews section of a website are possible to be published. However, the Guide states that when these reviews are published in other media such as television, brochures, or magazines, their content must also comply with other provisions of the Regulation. In other words, some obligations that will not come into play when the review is published on the website will confront advertisers in the uses made in other media. For example, a comment like “this is the best product on the market. others are rubbish” added to the website of Company X wants to be added to television advertisements. According to the Guide, all expressions in this promotion will be considered as if those expressions were declared by Company X. In this respect, Company X may receive an administrative fine due to non-compliance with the comparative advertising rules in the Regulation.
Sellers or online marketplaces are obliged to inform consumers about the rules regarding the publication of reviews in a clear manner. It is not possible to prevent consumers from making comments on ancillary processes such as payment or delivery. For example, the use of the following statements is illegal:
- “Comments related to the quality, defective product, incorrect product shipment, delivery, packaging, and product authenticity, which can be considered as a seller review, cannot be made.”
- “The review has been removed because it is independent of the service received from the restaurant.”
In accordance with the legislation or the rules determined by the seller or online marketplace, consumers whose reviews have been removed or not published must be informed immediately. However, the right to make corrections and resubmit the review must be given to the consumer whose review was rejected on the grounds that it did not comply with the publication principle.
CONTROL OF REVIEWS
Online marketplaces or sellers selling from their own websites, which enable consumer reviews to be made, must confirm that these reviews are made by individuals who have purchased the product or service. In other words, publishing reviews made by individuals who did not purchase the product is contrary to the law. According to the Guide, consumer reviews must be published objectively for at least one year according to an objective criterion, without distinguishing between positive or negative reviews, after necessary investigations have been carried out. For example, it would be illegal for sellers to delete negative comments or delete all reviews once a month.
The Guide emphasizes that the control process should not deter consumers from making reviews through obstructive or manipulative control processes.
EXAMPLES OF MISLEADING CONSUMER REVIEWS
According to the Guide, examples that can be considered as misleading consumer reviews are as follows:
|A consumer purchases a buttermilk from the restaurant||Consumer review stating that the restaurant’s kebabs and lahmacuns are excellent|
|An agreement is made to order 30 different products separately and the products are returned within 14 days||Positive consumer reviews for each product separately|
|The restaurant owner only allows reviews related to food||Taking actions to prevent reviews related to price, delivery, or return matters, which will deceive consumers|
- Consumer reviews are increasingly influential in our lives day by day. These reviews, which are one of the most important advertising tools for sellers, also significantly affect consumers’ purchasing decisions. For this reason, the Board aims to prevent the deceptive or manipulative effects of sellers or online marketplaces on this matter.
- Reviews made by individuals who did not purchase or use the products are quite common. As of the date the Guide was published, such practices should be terminated immediately.
- All internet sellers are obliged to establish a consumer review standard determined by objective criteria and to conduct a review control process accordingly. In this respect, it is essential for every internet seller to establish consumer review rules for their own websites.
- Sellers and online marketplaces that do not comply with the rules may be subject to suspension or administrative fines in accordance with the Consumer Protection Law and the Regulation on Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices.