The regulation of online reviews in European consumer law

Madalena Barreto Torres de Mendonca Narciso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Most consumers consult online reviews before entering a contractual relation. Online reviews are written feedback or a rating left by consumers on a good or service they have experienced. Online review mechanisms are designed and controlled by online platforms. From a legal perspective, online reviews can be perceived as pre-contractual information: they tackle information asymmetries between businesses and consumers and they shape consumers' contractual will. However, online reviews are often unreliable: they are not representative of all consumers' opinions, they can be vitiated by biases or they can be faked in order to increase a business' reputation. These issues can be detrimental to consumer protection, since online reviews can mislead consumers and hinder their trust in the market. Additionally, these issues raise questions regarding the recent role of online platforms as gateways to consumer information, their responsibility in assuring online review mechanisms' reliability and how prepared European consumer legislation is for the platform economy. Even though the European legislator has not explicitly regulated online reviews so far, it has demonstrated interest in doing so, having had characterized unreliable online reviews as a threat to consumer protection. Furthermore, the regulation of contractual information has been one of the European Union's main concerns in consumer law, which means that the existing regulatory framework can be applicable to online reviews. This article explores online reviews' relevance for private law by determining to what extent existing European consumer Directives apply to them, focusing particularly the E-Commerce Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-581
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Review of Private Law
Volume27
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Keywords

  • Online reviews
  • consumer information
  • consumer law
  • European law
  • FEEDBACK
  • INFORMATION
  • REPUTATION
  • EBAY
  • AGE

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