Specific rules for consumer reviews and publishing consumer complaints were introduced into Turkish law by amendments to the Advertising Regulation effective as of March 2022.
The amendments establish fundamental principles regarding consumer reviews. Some of them are as follows:
- Consumer reviews may be published by only those who have purchased the relevant product or service.
- Consumers should be informed of the principles for publishing consumer reviews either directly on the relevant webpage where the reviews are published or through a pop-up link that directs the consumers to a more detailed information page.
- It is obligatory to publish consumer reviews for at least one year without any guidance, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, and based on objective criteria like date, ranking, and seller name.
- Any consumer review which is found to be inappropriate for being published based on pre-determined criteria should immediately be raised to the attention of the consumer who did the review.
- Fake comments and entering into agreements for the procurement of such services are prohibited.
- It is prohibited to publish consumer reviews with health claims contrary the relevant legislation.
Further detailed provisions regarding the procedure for publishing consumer complaints were also introduced into Turkish law. Accordingly, consumer complaint platforms that publish consumer complaints should give vendors or providers about whom the evaluation has been made at least seventy-two (72) hours to exercise their right to make a statement or reply before the publication of the complaint. Reviews should not be published before this period expires or if they are found to be inaccurate.
Before the legal rules about consumer reviews and complaints were introduced into Turkish law, the Advertisement Board scrutinized consumer reviews shared by brands in relation to the advertising of their products and services and queried the trueness and conformity of these claims to general advertising rules.
In this respect, one interesting decision was rendered by the Advertisement Board in January 2022 immediately prior to the enactment of the new rules on consumer reviews and complaints. It concerned a consumer complaint on a platform for such complaints on the page for a Turkish bank about an employee of the bank. The complaint concerned the employee’s private rental agreement with the landlord, that is, the individual making the complaint. Since the private rental contract of the employee had no relation with the services provided by the bank and the consumer complaint was therefore irrelevant, the Advertisement Board found the consumer complaint misleading as to the services of the bank subject to the complaint, evaluated the complaint as detrimental to the reputation of the bank and ordered for the consumer complaint to be removed, imposing a administrative monetary fine against the complaint platform.
The Board rendered another important decision in November 2022 about a consumer review concerning a hospital published on a complaint platform. The review stated that the relevant consumer was generally satisfied with the hospital’s services but still found reason to complain due to the impolite behaviour of a cleaning service employee who allegedly did not respect the privacy of the patient. The Board determined that the mentioned review is not related to health services provided by the hospital but is about the personal acts and attitude of the mentioned cleaning service employee and that expressions used in the review evidently establish that the consumer has an animosity against the mentioned employee. The Board concluded that publishing this review would mislead consumers and would prevent them from gathering accurate information.
It can be seen from the above that the Advertisement Board strictly scrutinizes consumer reviews and the publishing of consumer complaints in accordance with the regulations mentioned above.