Fast-fashion brand Fashion Nova has agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) $4.2 million to settle allegations that it used third-party software to prevent negative reviews from appearing on its site.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Fashion Nova’s site encouraged consumers to write a review of its various products and provide a star rating, from one to five.
However, the FTC alleged, “Fashion Nova installed a third-party online product review management interface. The interface allows users to choose to have certain reviews automatically post based upon their star ratings and hold lower-starred reviews for client approval prior to posting.”
As a result, “Fashion Nova chose to have four- and five-star reviews automatically post to the website, but did not approve or publish hundreds of thousands lower-starred, more negative reviews,” the FTC said.
The settlement requires Fashion Nova to “post on its website all customer reviews of products currently being sold—with the exception of reviews that contain obscene, sexually explicit, racist, or unlawful content and reviews that are unrelated to the product or customer services like shipping or returns.”
Fashion Nova could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesperson told The New York Times that the complaint was “inaccurate,” and the company was “highly confident that it would have won in court and only agreed to settle the case to avoid the distraction and legal fees that it would incur in litigation.”
The FTC, as well as local authorities, have taken action against companies that post fake online reviews. In 2019, a pill company was fined $12.8 million for allegedly posting fake Amazon reviews. Later that year, a skin care company settled an FTC complaint that said it had encouraged interns to write fake reviews.
In October, the FTC put hundreds of companies “on notice” that they faced action for using “fake online reviews and other deceptive endorsements.”
However, this is the FTC’s first action against a company for hiding negative reviews. In conjunction with this action, the FTC sent letters to 10 review-management services, placing them on notice that removing negative reviews violates the Federal Trade Commission Act.
“Deceptive review practices cheat consumers, undercut honest businesses, and pollute online commerce,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.
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