Fake reviews have been widely criticised for pumping up product rankings and deceiving consumers – and now a new European law aims to do something about it.
From 28 May 2022, a European Parliament directive comes into effect to better protect online shoppers, particularly from dishonest claims. These will have an effect on people in the Netherlands both as consumers and as (re)sellers.
At Blue Umbrella, we believe that small businesses should be particularly alert to the new rules, which mean that search engines need to distinguish genuine search from paid-for hits, fake consumer reviews are banned, customers have more rights about their personal data, and businesses must check if reviews are authentic.
It has been too easy for people to inflate the popularity of products with fake reviews in the past, but soon there will be active checking to ensure that reviews are genuine.
From the end of May, third parties who import products for direct resale – sometimes known as dropshippers or white label businesses – will also need to be clearly identified. So if your business orders products abroad, resells on places like Bol.com, Amazon or Marktplaats and ships directly to the consumer, you will need to make this clear.
A directive that came into effect last year meant that for goods shipped from outside the European Union, VAT needs to be paid at the border – which is one of the reasons why you may have trouble getting your foreign post if you don’t pay the delivery firm various charges nowadays. Previously, goods from places like China were not subject to VAT if they were low in value – meaning an explosion in dropshippers importing from China, benefitting from zero import duties.
With trends such as the fidget spinner, third party companies importing directly from outside the EU jumped onto the bandwagon and filled webshops with their products – leaving some consumers puzzled about why their goods would take three or four weeks to appear.
Level playing field
In the future, lawmakers hope, customers will have a better picture of what they are buying and who is selling it.
For import businesses, there may not be penalties for failing to comply, but Bol.com and others will be on the lookout for ‘fake brands’ and may block you from their webshops and blacklist you: this is the biggest risk.
Meanwhile, for European businesses and consumers, webshops will hopefully be a lot less sticky to deal with in future.