New ASA guidelines on website marketing still require clarification, say social commerce experts

March 1, 2011

Online retailers using social commerce techniques risk inadvertently falling foul of the ASA’s new rules governing user-generated content unless the new guidelines are clarified further, Europe’s leading social commerce company Reevoo warned today. In force from today, the new rules specify that the regulations only apply if user-generated content is used for marketing purposes – but fail to make clear how the ASA will assess this.

Richard Anson, CEO and co-founder of Reevoo, said: “We welcome the guidelines as they make it very clear that online content must be ‘legal, decent, honest and true’. In that respect they should strengthen consumer confidence in social commerce, which is vital for the continued growth of these emerging channels. Where the guidelines are not sufficiently explicit is in what constitutes marketing. For example it’s arguable that reviews generated by customers to help others make a buying decision constitute ‘marketing’. It’s here that we feel further clarification on the implications for brands using user generated content for social commerce purposes is needed.”

“Retailers using respected reviews and ratings platforms largely have nothing to worry about because these typically proactively harvest and moderate reviews from verified purchasers only, and are already fully compliant with the ASA requirements. However there are still e-commerce sites with a manual, ’DIY’ approach to reviews, and there are also platforms that are non-compliant, which could catch some retailers out,” he added.

Reevoo’s advice for online retailers aiming to act in accordance with the new guidelines is to follow ‘best practice’ for reviews, which includes:
•not censoring reviews
•ensuring all reviews are by verified purchasers
•actively preventing fake reviews
•never rewarding reviewers

All partners of Reevoo’s social commerce platform are already compliant with the new ASA guidelines. All reviews are from verified purchasers so cannot be fake or ‘planted’, are uncensored (except for foul language), and reviewers are not rewarded.

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