In his most recent monthly column, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein shared insights on how customers can avoid falling prey to fake online reviews. Although AG Stein acknowledged that online reviews can be useful when deciding which products to buy or services to use, he cautioned that not all reviews are written by real people. In fact, many highly rated products or services consist of fake reviews, which could inaccurately reflect the quality of a product or service and lead to poor purchasing decisions. According to the statement, in 2021 alone, fake online reviews influenced a staggering $152 billion in online spending.
AG Stein listed ways by which customers can spot fake reviews and avoid deception by fake or biased reviews. AG Stein recommended customers to be wary of (1) multiple reviews of the same product submitted within a short period of time, (2) reviews consisting of poor grammar, and/or (3) a single reviewer who leaves the same review about multiple different products or services or only has one review. AG Stein also urged customers to do their own research, as well as check the Better Business Bureau and/or contact the AG’s Consumer Protection Section regarding any complaints lodged against the company’s products and services.
AG Stein criticized companies that obtain fake reviews written by their own employees or hire others to write fake reviews, and commended eBay for allowing customers to report fake reviews to the retailers. AG Stein also encouraged customers to report suspected fake reviews, so platforms can remove them to protect other shoppers.
Why It Matters
As state AGs continue to crack down on fake reviews and other scams — whether puppy scams or romance scams — companies, particularly e-commerce retailers that facilitate business-to-consumer sales, should ensure the authenticity of their reviews, as well as implement mechanisms for customers to report fake reviews.
Troutman Pepper State Attorneys General Team
|Ashley Taylor – Co-leader and Firm Vice Chair |
Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
|Clay Friedman – Co-leader |
Clay is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. Informed by nearly a decade in a state attorneys general office, and more than 25 years in private practice, Clay spends much of his time representing clients in singular or multistate regulatory actions. Clay has repeatedly led teams before all 50 state attorneys general and also handles matters with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other local, state and federal agencies.
|Judy Jagdmann |
Judy is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement (RISE) practice, based in the Richmond office. She brings experience serving as chair and commissioner of the Virginia State Corporate Commission (VSCC) from 2006 through 2022, which includes regulating the utilities, insurance, banking, and securities industries. She also served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2005-2006.
|Stephen Piepgrass |
Stephen represents clients interacting with, and being investigated by, state attorneys general and other enforcement bodies, including the CFPB and FTC, as well as clients involved with litigation, particularly in heavily regulated industries.
|Avi Schick |
A former deputy attorney general of New York, Avi applies his experience in bet-the-company matters, representing clients in criminal and civil investigations and enforcement actions before state and federal regulators, prosecutors and enforcement agencies.
|Michael Yaghi |
Michael handles high-profile state attorneys general, FTC, and CFPB investigations by advising clients through these complex government inquiries. He assists clients through the entire life cycle of investigations, from regulatory enforcement through formal litigation.
|Ketan Bhirud |
As a former government official at the state and federal level, Ketan leverages extensive experience in the public and private sectors to skillfully represent client interests.
|Tim Bado |
Tim is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, with a primary focus on financial services litigation.
|Chris Carlson |
Chris represents clients in regulatory, civil and criminal investigations and litigation. In his practice, Chris regularly employs his prior regulatory experience to benefit clients who are interacting with and being investigated by state attorneys general.
|Natalia Jacobo |
Natalia is an associate in the firm’s business litigation practice. She recently received her J.D from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
|Namrata Kang |
Namrata is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, based in the Washington, D.C. office. Her work includes advising clients in regulatory investigations and compliance matters, in addition to representing clients in civil litigation matters.
|Susan Nikdel |
Susan is an associate in the firm’s Consumer Financial Services Practice Group, and focuses her practice on consumer financial services matters. She has defended several of the nation’s largest and most influential financial institutions in individual and class action litigation involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and other consumer privacy statutes. Susan also represents banks, fintechs, and financial services companies in connection with regulatory examinations and investigations brought by the CFPB, state attorneys general, and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
|John Sample |
John represents clients in a wide variety of general and complex litigation matters, shareholder disputes, products liability, and privacy claims.
|Whitney Shephard |
Whitney is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group. She represents clients facing state and federal regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, as well as related civil litigation.
|Trey Smith |
Trey is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement practice. His experience includes serving as a summer associate at the firm in 2021.
|Daniel Waltz |
An experienced litigator, Daniel advises and represents regional, national and international companies, financial institutions and insurers in all facets of business, complex commercial and insurance coverage litigation. He is committed to working with his clients to find creative solutions to meet their needs.
|Stephanie Kozol |
Stephanie is Troutman Pepper’s senior government relations manager in the state attorneys general department.