ASTROTURFING PROHIBITED BY THE EU DIRECTIVE ON UNFAIR COMMERCIAL PRACTICES

"Astroturfing" is using Websites to create a false impression of grass-roots support for a product or service, where testimonies are intended to look like grass-roots campaigns, but are entirely artificial. The Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices (“Directive”) is the EU’s attempt to protect consumers from victimization by such false advertising on the Internet. Under the Directive, individuals or companies who pose as consumers by writing fake blogs, providing fake testimonies on consumer rating Websites, or writing fake book reviews, risk criminal and civil liability in European Union Member States.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

What is the “Black List”?
Does the Directive distinguish between statements that are purported to be made by a third party and statements that are made by the companies’ own employees?
How does the Directive enable national authorities to ensure compliance with its provisions?
What is the penalty for violating the provisions of the Directive?
What is the statute of limitations for prosecution of offenses under the Directive?

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