Published on Friday, March 28, 2008

Commercial blogging - 'flogging' - becomes an offence in Europe

The end, it seems, could be nigh for those cheeky hoteliers who pretend to be customers on TripAdvisor and write themselves glowing reviews.

As of April 6, Brussels will be banning such underhand activities as the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive comes into force, making commercial blogging, or flogging as it’s known, an offence.

The new law includes two categories of unfair commercial practise - misleading practices and aggressive practices. Whether a practise is deemed unfair will be judged in light of the effect it has on the average consumer’s consequent decision to purchase.

The law means companies, no matter how small (and that includes sole traders), will not be able to post online themselves or pay anyone else to post reviews or blogs about their own companies that are misleading.

The law comes into force at a time when the public are beginning to make their disapproval about flogging heard.

In the US, the recent Travel 2.0 Consumer Technology Survey which was commissioned by Phocuswright revealed that when travel purchasing decisions are being made, most Americans said they would rather make their own minds up than follow the views of people they didn’t know (and therefore, buy implication, could not trust).

by Dinah Hatch

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  • Sarcasm doesn't generally work in written form

    Hey Nick, sorry about that. I was being sarcastic and it didn't translate well. I have a fairly active blog and have to deal with comment spam littered with urls all day long so when I saw your comment, it through me into a blind rage. ;-) Anyway, my point is that my reaction to your comment was probably not dissimilar from other avid bloggers who also have to deal with comment spam on a daily basis. One or even two urls is probably okay, but 10 urls is a little over the top and will probably get your comment flagged as spam. p.s. I don't know if viewers have seen my website, I suppose if they want to find out more about me, they can always read my profile and go from there.

    By Stephen Joyce, Sunday, April 6, 2008

  • You cannot be serious

    Don't know if you are making a serious comment or taking the... but it doesn't matter. Just something I did during a lunchtime sandwich break, as there seems to be a general lack of comments or discussions on Travelmole these days. Too much doom and gloom around in Travel although we are doing quite well this year. PS I wonder if viewers have seen your website ? and PS Travelmole, isn't it about time you got a spellchecker for these comments ?

    By Nick Cooper, Friday, April 4, 2008

  • Flogging should apply to Comments too.

    Blatant comment spam should also be illegal. Frankly Nick, your position on the subject is almost immediately nullified by your blatant self promotion. Oh wait, I get it, it was joke, you were making a joke right? You were demonstrating to everyone how easy it is to turn a perfectly valid discussion into a self-directed sales pitch about something totally unrelated to the discussion at hand. Very clever.

    By Stephen Joyce, Friday, April 4, 2008

  • quite right to, see

    Well done and quite right to it should be an offence to blatantly blog about your own company. And by sheer chance viewers may be interested to notice the following fantastic direct-sell websites offering a great selection of superb villas with pools

    By Nick Cooper, Thursday, April 3, 2008

  • Joe and Stephen are on target

    No need for legalistic monitoring...Net consumers go elsewhere if they perceive reviews/info/viral info to be placed by commercial entities. Trust the users instincts.

    By liz craig, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • No wisdom in crowds presumably

    I agree with Joe 100%. This is a well intentioned law but defeats the whole purpose of wisdom of crowds or the aggregate rating based on hundreds or thousands of reviews. The feedback model that TripAdvisor (and others) use is not new, it has been around on eBay for a very long time. The concept is that you get an overall score with a comparative number of positives to negatives. Hotels writing positive reviews about themselves will have little effect on their overall score as will writing a negative review about a competitor. Frankly I would like to have seen a law that directly addressed the issue of splogging or spam blogs, which in my opinion causes more issues then the occasional self serving review.

    By Stephen Joyce, Friday, March 28, 2008

  • Follow-up comment

    Go to this post for a description of how media is consumed by what will become the next generation of travel buyers. Don't think for one minute that they won't be able to know who to trust for making buying decisions.

    By Joe Buhler, Friday, March 28, 2008

  • Bureaucrats at work

    Another example of well intentioned bureaucrats introducing a law that can hardly be enforced, except probably at great expense to the tax payer. One how do you catch offenders, two how do you determine the fine? As to the comment at the end of the original post, I don't agree that by implication opinions of people I don't know can't bee trusted. Why would I trust them less than some advertising message by the service provider or the comment of an individual "professional writer/journalist"? Of course, I wouldn't base my buying decision on only one user opinion but on the aggregate number of reviews. This is one more reason why laws and regulations are not going to solve the problem, if there is indeed a serious problem. You can't legislate against the "wisdom of the crowd" effect. The more customer reviews are out there, the less their cumulative effect can be influenced by a few "floggers" unless, of course, the assumption is that the majority of reviewers are indeed paid by scheming competitors, then we would be back to square one and the place before social media existed and one way marketing ruled the day.

    By Joe Buhler, Friday, March 28, 2008

  • A tricky one to Police...

    An interesting article but I agree with Nicola it is going to be tricky to enforce. I think it is just another pen pusher in Brussels who is justifying there job. There are currently lots of standards that advertising should adhere to but realistically not many of them are enforced take this as a bit of an example :-

    By Michael Rhodes, Friday, March 28, 2008

  • How is this enforceable?

    I think this is an absolutely fantastic directive, but wonder how easy it will be to enforce. The key words are pay and misleading. Is it permissable to pay someone to post a truthful and honest review? Or would it be wrong (obviously it is ethically, in my opinion) to incentivise in some way, rather than pay, someone to post misleading material? I have considered incentivising (by way of a discount off subsequent bookings) honest and truthful reviews for my travel agency; I know this to be fairly common practice in different sectors. Do others think this wrong either legally or ethically?

    By Nicola Grimshaw, Friday, March 28, 2008

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