The Berlin Regional Court has ruled on the use of star ratings in online stores. It was ruled that advertising products with a star ranking is misleading and thus anti-competitive if there are no customer reviews to support the ranking.
The case: Hoco Online GmbH advertises with star rating without customer reviews
The specific case involved Hoco Online GmbH, which operates an online store for bicycles. The products were advertised with five stars, although no customer reviews were available. The product page again displayed five stars, but with the addition of “(0)”, indicating that no reviews had been submitted. Further down the page, under the heading Customer Reviews, it said, “Sorry, there is no listing yet.” The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. – VZBV) considered this practice to be misleading to consumers and filed a lawsuit against Hoco Online GmbH.
The verdict: Berlin Regional Court sees misleading of consumers
The Berlin Regional Court ruled that the use of star ratings in advertising without underlying customer reviews is considered misleading and thus deceives consumers. The court emphasized that consumers would generally assume that a five-star rating indicates that customers have given the product a positive review. It was also clarified that even if notices are present on the product page, they do not eliminate the misleading effect, especially if they are small and easy to overlook. As a result, merchants who advertise with star ratings must ensure that these ratings are based on genuine customer reviews and that the average of the ratings corresponds to the stated star rating. In addition, the total number of evaluations, the evaluation period and a possibility to inspect all individual evaluations must be indicated.
Tips for retailers: How do you handle star ratings responsibly?
- Ensure authenticity: make sure star ratings are based on real customer reviews. Avoid using star ratings when customer reviews are not available
- Create transparency: In addition to the star rating, also indicate the number of ratings and allow customers to view the individual ratings.
- Clarity and clarity: avoid misleading representations. When a star rating is used, it should be clear that it is based on customer reviews and not a self-assessment by the merchant.
Conclusion: Responsible handling protects against legal consequences
The ruling of the Berlin Regional Court underscores the importance of responsible handling of star ratings in online retail. It is critical that merchants comply with legal requirements to minimize legal risks. In addition, it is in the best interest of all stakeholders, including distributors and customers, that the information provided is accurate and not misleading. It is important to note that the topic of ratings and customer reviews is complex and many warning traps can lurk. With me here on the site, you’ll already find a variety of blogposts that address this topic and offer valuable insight and advice.