The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is releasing best practice guidance about online product reviews for businesses and review platforms.

The guidelines set out three core principles of conduct for businesses to abide by: be transparent about commercial relationships; don’t post or publish misleading reviews; and remember that omitting negative reviews can be as misleading as positing fake reviews.

ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said the guidance will address misleading conduct related to fake online reviews.

“Australian consumers have more choice than ever before. However, with more options available, it is important that there is accurate and reliable information available to help consumers choose,” he said.

The ACCC is concerned that there is an increase in paid for and fake reviews, which is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Many consumers believe that reviews on various review platforms are the genuine experience or views of other consumers.

“Fake online reviews mislead consumers and hurt Australian businesses.  Businesses that pay for or post fake reviews can gain an unfair advantage or damage their rivals,” Schaper said.

Online reviews help consumers make informed decisions based on a range of third party consumer opinions. More consumers are relying on these reviews and a recent Sensis Social Media Report 2013 suggests that 74 per cent of social media users read online reviews before making a purchase.