Competition – press release

Online reviews guidelines mark end of CMA’s ICPEN presidency

Consumers worldwide to benefit as international consumer protection enforcers issue guidelines on online reviews and endorsements.

The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), a network of consumer protection authorities from nearly 60 countries, has today published 3 sets of guidelines on online reviews and endorsements for review administrators, traders and marketers, and digital influencers.

Consumers are increasingly using opinions in online reviews, articles and blogs to help them decide where to go on holiday, which restaurants to visit, or which products or services to buy. Consumer protection agencies across the world have been taking action to help build trust in these valuable tools and prevent the use of misleading or fake reviews and endorsements.

Under the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) 2015 to 2016 presidency, ICPEN members have come together to produce a common set of principles for the sector. These guidelines provide simple dos and don’ts for review sites, traders and marketing businesses, and digital influencers, such as bloggers and vloggers. The guidelines will help traders and businesses know which practices to adopt and which to avoid so that consumers get the full picture and can trust that the opinions they read are genuine and unbiased.

As the volume of shopping online and across borders grows and trade becomes increasingly international, it is important that consumer protection enforcers around the world work together to ensure that businesses, wherever they are based, deal with consumers fairly.

The CMA’s year-long presidency of ICPEN, which draws to a close today, has brought enforcers together to tackle problems faced by consumers across the globe by sharing information and taking common actions. The new guidelines are just one example of the work carried out by ICPEN under the CMA’s presidency.

The CMA has published a report, which gives more details about the work delivered by ICPEN and its members during the CMA’s year as president. The presidency passes to the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, Germany, on 1 July 2016.

Nisha Arora, ICPEN President and CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said:

Consumers are increasingly shopping in an international marketplace, whether shopping online or travelling or buying abroad. Consumers in different countries often face common problems. They need to know that they can trust the businesses with which they are dealing, wherever they are based.

It’s more important than ever that consumer protection agencies work together to tackle common problems and ensure that businesses, wherever they are based, deal with consumers fairly. The guidelines on online reviews and endorsements that we have published today send a common message from consumer agencies across the world to businesses, wherever they are located. This is just one example of how ICPEN is bringing enforcers together to protect consumers worldwide.

Ilona Ulich, incoming ICPEN President, said:

I am very happy to take up the role of ICPEN President from Nisha Arora and keen to build on the CMA’s excellent work during the upcoming German ICPEN Presidency. The strategic steer the CMA has provided to the network in the past year has paved a solid way for our programme of work to make the German Presidency’s mission ‘Uniting enforcers – Protecting consumers’ come true.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. For more information on the CMA see our homepage or follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn.
  2. The CMA has held the presidency, which ends today (30 June 2016), since 1 July 2015. During the year, it has built on the work of the Swedish Consumer Ombudsman, which held the presidency in 2014/15. The presidency passes to the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection on 1 July 2016.
  3. ICPEN is an informal network of consumer protection law enforcement authorities representing over 60 global economies. It provides a forum where authorities can share information and look to combat consumer problems which arise with cross-border transactions in goods and services, such as e-commerce.
  4. As at 30 June 2016 ICPEN comprises representatives from: Angola, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam, Zambia, European Commission, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Ibero-American Forum of Consumer Government Agencies (FIAGC).
  5. For more information visit www.icpen.org.
  6. Research by the CMA found that the online review industry influences around £23 billion of spending a year in the UK alone, more than half of UK consumers read online reviews, 6% consult blogs or vlogs before making a purchase and 8 out of 10 find that the purchase they make after consulting one of these sources, matches or exceeds their expectations. Following the initial research, the CMA launched enforcement work on fake reviews, unlabelled endorsements and on trusted trader and care home review sites.
  7. Enquiries should be directed to Simon Belgard (simon.belgard@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6472).