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FTC Proposes New Rule to Protect Consumers Against Advertising Malpractices

The rule will trigger civil penalties for violators and help level the playing field for honest companies.
UPDATED JAN 22, 2024
Cover Image Source: GettyImages | Dan Kitwood  Staff
Cover Image Source: GettyImages | Dan Kitwood Staff

Deceptive advertising has become a growing concern in the digital age with fake reviews and endorsements misleading consumers and undermining honest businesses. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed a new rule to tackle this issue head-on. The FTC aims to use all available means to crack down on marketers who engage in deceptive practices, ensuring a level playing field for honest companies.

Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, emphasized the significance of the proposed rule, stating, "The rule would trigger civil penalties for violators and should help level the playing field for honest companies."

Image Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Image Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Fake Reviews and Endorsements: A Widespread Issue

Fake reviews and endorsements have plagued online platforms like Amazon and Google for years. The prevalence of false five- and four-star ratings and manufactured product endorsements have raised concerns among consumers seeking genuine feedback. The problem escalated during the pandemic, as unscrupulous actors took advantage of the surging demand for e-commerce. The FTC acknowledges that advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have further facilitated the generation of deceptive reviews, exacerbating the issue.

The Role of AI in Generating Deceptive Reviews

The FTC recognizes that AI technology has made it easier than ever to create deceptive reviews. The commission's proposal acknowledges the emerging challenges posed by generative AI, which enables bad actors to manipulate and generate false reviews at scale. By leveraging AI algorithms, unscrupulous marketers can deceive consumers and manipulate their purchasing decisions. Addressing this issue is crucial for preserving consumer trust and promoting fair competition.

Source: GettyImages | David McNew  Staff
Image Source:  David McNew Staff/Getty Images

Proposed Measures to Combat Deceptive Practices

The FTC's proposed rule encompasses a range of measures designed to combat deceptive practices and protect consumers. These measures include:

1. Banning the Sale and Procurement of Fake Reviews: The proposed rule prohibits businesses from writing or selling fake consumer reviews and testimonials. It also prevents the procurement and dissemination of such reviews, imposing consequences on those who knowingly engage in these deceptive practices.

Source: GettyImages | Adam Berry  Stringer
Source: GettyImages | Adam Berry Stringer

2. Review Hijacking—Repurposing Reviews for Different Products

Businesses would be prohibited from repurposing consumer reviews written for one product and misleadingly using them for substantially different products. The FTC recently took action against a vitamin marketer on Amazon for review hijacking, setting a precedent for enforcement.

3. Prohibiting the Buying of Positive or Negative Reviews: 

It aims to eliminate the practice of providing compensation or incentives in exchange for consumer reviews expressing specific sentiments, whether positive or negative. This measure ensures that reviews are based on genuine experiences rather than biased influence.

4. Insider Reviews and Testimonials—Disclosure Requirements: 

This mandates that company officers and managers disclose their relationships when writing reviews or testimonials for their own products or services. Additionally, businesses are prohibited from disseminating testimonials by insiders without adequate disclosures, preventing misleading endorsements.

Source: GettyImages | Mark Wilson  Staff
Source: GettyImages | Mark Wilson Staff

5. Company-Controlled Review Websites: Businesses will be prohibited from creating or controlling review websites that claim to provide independent opinions while including their own products or services. This measure ensures the independence and credibility of review platforms.

6. Illegal Review Suppression—Preventing Negative Reviews: 

This prohibits businesses from employing unjustified legal threats, intimidation, or false accusations to prevent or remove negative consumer reviews. Transparency and accountability are essential to maintaining trust between businesses and consumers.

7. Selling Fake Social Media Indicators—Misrepresenting Influence: Businesses will be prevented from misrepresentation of popularity with fake followers or views that misguide consumer choices.


With the new rule in place, honest businesses will benefit from increased consumer trust and confidence as consumers will be able to make informed decisions based on genuine reviews and endorsements. By curbing fake reviews and deceptive practices, the FTC's proposed rule aims to create a more transparent and trustworthy digital marketplace.