The United Kingdom recently proposed regulations to make writing and commissioning fake reviews illegal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published new guidelines warning businesses against using “misleading” review displays and collecting comments from those likely to appreciate the products. They also assert that companies must consider both positive and negative comments equally. Officials from the agency are also working with the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK to look into online reviews on sites such as Amazon and Google. While fake reviews have gotten a lot of attention, experts say businesses are deforming customer views differently. These include showing positive feedback to their advantage, selecting demanding comments, and hiding negative reviews.

“Many companies start with an honest agenda, which is to remove fake negative reviews… but when they do it, it becomes a slippery slope,” says Prof. Bin Gu of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. “It’s very hard to know when to stop.” However, the damage has already been done to some consumers. According to research, approximately 90 percent of shoppers use product reviews while making purchasing decisions. “We live in a time with a real lack of trust,” says customer Nathaniel Fuentes. “Before, it used to be something that was really easy to say, ‘Hey – it’s a high review. I can go buy it.’ Now it’s kind of muddied.”