Retailers may want to think twice before removing negative reviews from their websites.
The Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday that Fashion Nova, a popular fast-fashion clothing site, will have to pay $ 4.2 million to settle allegations of suppressing customer reviews that gave products fewer than four out of five stars.
The agency said the case was the first to involve a company’s efforts to hide negative reviews.
Fashion Nova used a third-party product review system that contained lower-star reviews for approval before they could be posted, the FTC said in a complaint. As early as 2015 and through 2019, Fashion Nova automatically posted four- and five-star reviews on its site but did not approve or post hundreds of thousands of more negative reviews with lower stars, according to the complaint.
While ecommerce has exploded, particularly during the pandemic, the online review ecosystem remains relatively crude. The FTC has tried to monitor companies such as skin care brand Sunday Riley for posting fake reviews online in recent years, although this is the first time the agency has challenged “review suppression.”
These FTC actions tend to act as warning signs to other companies. The agency said on Tuesday that it has sent letters to 10 companies offering review management services, telling them they cannot avoid collecting and posting negative reviews.
In addition to the fine, Fashion Nova is prohibited from misrepresenting customer reviews or other endorsements.
“Deceptive audit practices cheat consumers, undermine honest businesses, and pollute online commerce,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.