A solar power company has been fined $6,000 after admitting to eight breaches of Australian Consumer Law when it published fake testimonials on its website.
Suntech Solar Pty Ltd, trading as Ausuntech Energy, pleaded guilty to all charges at Perth Magistrates Court following a prosecution brought by Consumer Protection, which is part of the WA Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety.
Testimonials copied from other websites
The court was told that the business copied eight testimonials from the websites of other solar or electrical firms. The text was altered so that the feedback referred to Suntech Solar, which operates nationally and has an office in Canning Vale, a suburb of Perth.
The original reviewers’ names were also changed and WA or NSW locations were added when the fictitious testimonials appeared on the Ausuntech Energy website.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection in WA, Penny Lipscombe, said the testimonials were published online for more than two years and could have misled consumers.
Fictitious testimonials damage good faith
“Now more than ever, online reviews and ratings are key factors for people when researching a company’s reputation and choosing who they conduct business with,” Lipscombe said.
“Fictitious testimonials are not only illegal, they diminish the trust and good faith between traders and consumers, particularly when the reviews are lifted directly from competitors’ websites.
“This case should remind all businesses of their obligations to understand and comply with relevant laws,” she added.
Remove testimonials known to be fake
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, businesses and review platforms that do not remove reviews that they know to be fake risk breaching the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010.
Reviews may mislead consumers if they are presented as impartial, but were written by the business itself, a competitor, someone paid to write the review who has not used the product, or someone who has used the product but written an inflated review to receive a financial or non-financial benefit.