Deleting negative reviews? You may be breaking the law
Regulated health services that selectively edit reviews or testimonials have the potential to break the law, prompting AHPRA to publish further guidance for advertisers.
A recent example of an organisation only publishing positive reviews and removing all negative information from consumer reviews shows the importance of advertisers understanding their advertising obligations under all relevant legislation.
Selectively editing reviews or testimonials has the potential to be false, misleading or deceptive and, therefore, unlawful. For example it is inherently misleading to:
- edit a review that is negative to make it positive, as this falsely presents the feedback;
- edit a review that has a mix of negative and positive comments so that the published review only has positive comments, as this falsely implies that the reviewer only had positive feedback; or
- edit a review so that it no longer accurately reflects all the reviewer’s feedback and presents an inaccurate or false impression of the reviewer’s views.
Reviews influence consumers’ choices about their health care, so advertisers must make sure reviews are genuine and not misleading. Advertisers’ moderation guidelines about publishing reviews must comply with the National Law1 and the Australian Consumer Law.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and National Boards recently published a testimonial tool to help advertisers understand what reviews can and can’t be published.
“We’ve since updated the tool to help advertisers get it right when they are moderating reviews or testimonials against the National Law’s advertising requirements,” AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said.
“If advertisers edit reviews or testimonials there is a high risk that the edited reviews will become misleading or deceptive. Only publishing complete and unedited reviews that are not testimonials will help advertisers to avoid breaching the National Law.”
1. The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).
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