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My mate was buying a car from AutoTrader UK and heavily relying on reviews in their website. When I mentioned it to a relative of mine who owns a car supermarket he said that to post a review in AutoTrader you need to contact the dealer and ask them for a link. This obviously means only good reviews would go online unless someone is shameless and determined to post a negative review.

Slightly related to this question, but still different- is it OK for a website to only post positive reviews for their sellers?

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A website can do whatever it likes, if they only want positive reviews, that is fine, if they have a system that makes it so the seller has to give permission for a review to be written, that is also fine.

There are a few limits to free speech in the UK, this is not covered by any of them.

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There are no laws requiring that any company must publish all opinions from its customers.

I'll admit it's fundamentally dishonest to only publish the positives, but there's no prohibition against it either. Look at movie advertisements, for example. They'll paraphrase or selectively quote a review, citing only what seems to be positive, yet if you read the review and quote in context, you'll understand the review quite differently.

How exactly would you police it if you were to require companies to publish all reviews? Would you have some kind of litmus test to determine whether the critique is justified and fair? How often do people post false reviews (good or bad), and how would you account for them?

Company web sites offering reviews form their own customers are doing nothing more than using the web as an extension of their marketing, so one has to expect some manipulation of the information in order to present products and services in their best possible lights. Why, for example, would I tell you how much someone hates my product when my goal is to sell it to you?

This is why it would be better to use independent third-party review sites that have no dog in the hunt when it comes to honest feedback about the companies they cover.

  • That reasoning suggests that there is also no such thing as fraud by concealing material facts, since a line has to be drawn between material and irrelevant facts. If 50% of reviews are omitted and that constitutes all of the negative reviews, that's a pretty open and shut case of fraud. So why is that not legally actionable? – user6726 Nov 1 '16 at 18:04
  • The question then becomes, is an opinion a "material fact" in the legal sense? If you are an expert witness at trial then the answer might be yes, but not otherwise. An opinion is just that - an opinion. If someone says that a restaurant's steaks are tough, is that a "material fact", or just that customer's perspective? There might be other customers who think otherwise, so how do you weigh that out? If a company has no legal obligation to publish all reviews then it has not committed a criminal offense, therefore nothing is actionable. – Daniel Anderson Nov 1 '16 at 18:15
  • In the current U.S. presidential election, each candidate only highlights facts that paint them in a favorable light and they conveniently ignore facts which may be very negative and would affect voter opinion. Are they committing a crime? No. At the end of the day, consumers have the freedom to choose where they get their information from and make their own choices. If consumers only listen to the self-serving statements of companies when making decisions then it's at their own peril. No company is obligated to tell you what everybody thinks of them. – Daniel Anderson Nov 1 '16 at 18:19
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    One well known fact in web marketing is that it's self-destructive to only post good reviews (although many companies still do that, out of corporate insecurity). If you have a mix of good and bad reviews, customers actually have much more faith in the good reviews. – kbelder Nov 1 '16 at 19:20
  • Very true, @kbelder. Thanks for that point. Upvote from me! – Daniel Anderson Nov 1 '16 at 20:10

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