In the world of online reviews, a single negative comment can have a significant impact on a business’s reputation. To mitigate this risk, some companies engage in “review gating,” the practice of selectively soliciting positive reviews while discouraging negative ones. However, this seemingly helpful practice can lead to severe legal and algorithmic consequences, including hefty penalties from the FTC and Google.

Therefore, it’s essential to understand the nuances of requesting feedback without falling into grey areas that could lead to hefty penalties.

Defining Review Gating

Businesses engage in review gating when they filter customer feedback, requesting a review from those with positive experiences. This is often accomplished by asking a customer to complete an online survey, then only asking people with a positive response for a review on a site like Google, Facebook, or Yelp.

This action turns businesses into gatekeepers of their online reputation but fails to present an honest overview of customer sentiment.

Common Misconceptions and Real Practices

Amid the various interpretations of review gathering, it’s crucial to differentiate fact from fiction.

  • Fiction: Every means of collecting reviews involves some form of scrutiny or control.
  • Fact: In reality, ethical practices of review collection encourage customers to leave their honest feedback, good or bad, without any nudging or filtration.

Review gating occurs when businesses only direct those presumed to have had positive experiences to post reviews. This practice isn’t just a minor oversight; it’s often a deliberate strategy to skew public perception.

The problem is that many businesses don’t understand that what they might consider a harmless push for positive feedback could lead to breaking public trust—or worse, violating FTC regulations, resulting in substantial fines.

How Review Gating Can Damage Your Reputation

Imagine being a diner who discovers the glowing restaurant reviews you based your evening plans on were curated, leaving out the full spectrum of customer experiences. It feels like a breach of trust.

This breach of trust can backfire on businesses. Today’s customers are savvy; many can spot when a brand’s online image seems too polished or one-sided. Once they sense manipulation, the initial trust can quickly turn to skepticism.

Legal Implications: Crossing Lines with the FTC

Treading the line of review gating can lead a business into murky legal waters with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s not just a question of poor taste; we’re discussing potential legal violations. The FTC’s stance is clear: fake or misleading reviews are a form of deceptive advertising. And yes, this includes providing incentives to warrant positive reviews or suppressing the negative ones.

Legal action might ensue if the FTC concludes that a company should have known a review was fake. Furthermore, businesses violate FTC regulations if they only publish positive reviews while excluding negative reviews.

Learn more from these FTC resources:

Learning From a $4.2 Million Settlement

Reflecting on the stark rise in penalties over recent years jolts one to reality. Fashion Nova was fined $4.2 million in 2022 as part of a settlement for blocking negative reviews of its products. This landmark case serves as a stern warning: not only can these fines be financially crippling, but the associated public scrutiny could tarnish a brand’s reputation for years.

It’s a costly lesson for businesses that might have once brushed off review management as a minor concern in their digital strategy.

Insights from Businesses That Faced Google’s Wrath

Google also penalizes businesses that manipulate reviews by demoting their search rankings or removing their listings—actions that can spell disaster for online visibility.

Businesses that have felt the sting of Google’s penalties share a common lesson: compliance with review guidelines is not optional.

When businesses fall out of favor with Google, they often experience significant declines in online traffic, customer trust, and revenue. Cleaning up after such a mess can be an uphill battle, demonstrating the importance of adhering to Google’s review guidelines.

Embracing Transparency in Customer Feedback

In today’s digital age, where online reviews can make or break a brand’s reputation, businesses must cultivate an environment that values honest and transparent customer feedback. Embracing transparency demonstrates respect for the consumer and helps build trust while fostering a genuine connection between the brand and its audience.

Adhering to FTC guidelines aligns with the expectations of platforms like Google and signals to your customers that you are a brand that listens and adapts. Transparency isn’t just about being open; it’s about being openly committed to excellence and customer satisfaction.

Constructive Alternatives to Review Gating

Consider constructive alternatives instead of review gating, which risks your credibility and invites legal troubles. Engage with all your reviews, responding thoughtfully to negative feedback and showing sincere appreciation for the positive. This approach demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and continuous improvement.

Additionally, you can implement a robust feedback system that encourages honest customer input, ensuring transparency and fostering trust. By valuing every voice, you lay a foundation for credibility and nurture a loyal customer base.

Strategies for Positive Engagement without Manipulation

Encouraging positive consumer interaction doesn’t require manipulation. You’ll likely naturally garner the happy customer testimonials you desire by delivering excellent service and products. But you can also nudge this process along ethically. Create accessible avenues for customers to leave reviews, like follow-up emails or quick links on receipts. Another route is maintaining an engaging social media presence, where happy customers can tag your business and share their experiences organically.

Moreover, think of the process as fostering an environment where customers feel appreciated and heard, which promotes loyalty and advocacy.


Is Review Gating Illegal According to Current Regulations?

Yes, review gating is considered illegal according to current regulations. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) views it as a deceptive practice because it presents a skewed set of reviews to potential customers, violating guidelines on honest endorsements.

How Can Businesses Ethically Encourage Positive Reviews?

Businesses can ethically encourage positive reviews by providing exceptional service, kindly asking all customers for feedback, and creating convenient ways for them to do so, like via emails or messages post-purchase, without filtering based on sentiment.

What Should a Business Do if it Inadvertently Engages in Review Gating?

Suppose a business has inadvertently engaged in review gating. In that case, they should stop the practice immediately, review and adjust their methods to comply with guidelines, and consider transparently acknowledging the mistake while reinforcing their commitment to authentic customer feedback.

How Does Review Gating Impact SEO And Online Visibility?

Review gating impacts SEO and online visibility negatively as it violates Google’s guidelines, potentially leading to lower search rankings or removal from listings, thus reducing a business’s online presence and ability to attract traffic.


In deciphering the maze of online reviews, it becomes clear that long-term risks overshadow any short-term gains from review gating. Maintaining a trustworthy, transparent relationship with your customer base is pivotal. The potential legal repercussions, hefty fines, and damage to your SEO and reputation should serve as deterrents.

Remember, the authenticity of your reviews reflects your business’s integrity while boosting your online visibility.

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