When a business discovers false information online, it may be told that the false reviews cannot be removed from the internet, including search engine results. In fact, a 2012 article from CBS MoneyWatch even stated “it’s almost impossible to get a negative review removed from the Web once it’s live – even if it’s clearly false. An unscrupulous competitor or disgruntled employee can say horrible things anonymously, and there's little you can do about it.”
This is not true.
When a competitor publishes a false review about your business online, or a fake review touting their own company, this violates the United States’ Lanham Act. The Lanham Act prohibits false advertising by competitors and provides that a business can recover significant damages, including treble (triple) damages, disgorgement of the competitors’ profits, costs of corrective advertising, and attorney’s fees if the publication of the false review is willful – which it overwhelmingly is. 15 U.S. Code § 1117(a).
In a recent Pennsylvania case, a marble and granite installation business sued a competitor after it allegedly discovered that several posts on various product review websites were originating from its competitor’s IP address. The competitor attempted to argue: 1) these false reviews, as a matter of law, did not constitute false advertising, and 2) it was not responsible for its own employees’ online reviews. But the Court disagreed and held the fake reviews constituted defamation and trademark infringement, violating the Lanham Act. The Court subsequently denied the competitor’s motion to dismiss the case. NTP Marble, Inc. v. AAA Hellenic Marble, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93856 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 24, 2012).
It is also worth noting that in September 2013, a New York attorney general fined 19 companies a combined $350,000 for posting false reviews.