MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Before you visit that new restaurant, check out a recently released movie theater, or make an online purchase, you can check out the reviews.
But are they all real? A Tennessee lawmaker is seeking to crack down on people who post fake reviews.
Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) is pushing the bill that would make it a crime to post false negative reviews about a business online. He decided to do so after watching one of his constituents suffer at the hands of a contestant who posted thousands of negative reviews to tarnish his reputation.
“For a business to create 2,000 fake accounts and get a one-star rating takes time,” Byrd said.
But Byrd says that’s exactly what one company did to a competitor.
“The company, its competitor, created 2,000 fake reviews in two years,” Byrd said.
Byrd said it cost the victim about $150,000 to investigate, hire attorneys and go to court. He said the assailant received a slap on the wrist.
To combat this problem, Byrd has proposed a bill that will prohibit the publication online of a review of a company that is factually false with the intent to defraud the public.
“My bill will triple the fine from $500 to $1,400, and it will also give the judge some flexibility in awarding damages,” he said.
The Mid-South Better Business Bureau said there is data to support the idea that this is a concern for consumers.
“It could be owners filing positive reviews, competitors filing negative reviews,” said Randy Hutchinson, president and CEO of BBB Mid-South.
Hutchinson said there are ways for consumers to determine the validity of reviews and companies can determine if something fishy is going on.
“If there’s a flurry of reviews in a short time, rave reviews, great business, but don’t say what they like about the business, spelling and grammatical errors” , said Hutchinson.
Byrd’s bill passed the House. He is now making his way to the Senate.
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