In the recesses of my dark grey past, I did engage in some shady techniques that would have gotten me arrested had this new law existed back then. In my defence it wouldn’t have been just me that would have been sent to the dock – Sony, Wal-Mart, McDonalds and others would have been criminals had new legislation been in force back then.
What new law would have made me a criminal had I not seen the light and become a white hat (honest! pure as driven snow)? “Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008” This interesting law comes in to force on May 28th 2008 and within the UK stands to criminalise some regrettably common practices.
Yes, I have pretended to be a customer in my shady past and recruited others to help in my nefarious schemes. I have posted reviews having never visited the establishments as part of a commission. I have used friends to help do the same from various IPs over a period of time. I have been a very naughty girl but I’m better now thank goodness.
So, what’s up? Well, it all comes back to certain fakes out there and the need to guard against them. A ‘flog’ is a fake blog usually created by a PR or online marketing firm for the purpose of falsely representing themselves as a consumer, usually for the purposes of creating a buzz around a specific product or brand. Sometimes this is done as a brand or online reputation management activity.
Wal-Mart had one of the more famous flogs about a couple in an RV parking at various Wal-Mart stores across America and praising staff, service and selection. Sony hit the headlines through their “All I Want for Christmas” flog which claimed to be by a boy who wanted a PS3 for Christmas. McDonalds hit some headlines with the 4Railways flog about someone obsessed with getting all four railway cards in McDonalds monopoly game. There are tons more, sometimes created by our colleagues in this industry we all love.
So, what does it all really say? The section in question states that commercial practices which are unfair include “Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.” Whoops… bad Judith… no chocolate for you! Thankfully when I did it, I was way less transparent than one I saw recently. *rolls eyes* Amateurs!
Whether it is “Joan08” pretending to be a patron at a restaurant or “Jim and Laura” pretending to be Wal-Mart customers, deliberately misleading consumers is going to be punishable under law. Be aware black hats in the UK – if you get caught the stakes just got criminally high.