Basically the idea is that a retailer gives you an online credit for your purchase if you give the product a good review. As companies learn the power of the internet and positive reviews this sort of thing was inevitable and it’s actually been going on in one form or another a for quite a while already.
There are a variety of methods including writers offering their services for positive reviews and companies aggressively reposting positive reviews. Unethical marketing practices date back to the beginning of time, most likely, and people will always look to tilt the scale in their favor.
The reason I bring this up today is to talk about the government’s role in protecting us from such tactics. I think it’s fair to say that unethical marketing can have an extremely negative effect on the market and work to erode capitalism from within. Let’s say a group of companies price-fix products or a price-war drives out the competition leaving a sole provider of a product who can then set the price as they choose.
So, I’m not a fundamentalist libertarian that thinks the government should have no role in this matter and it is up to the people to figure out for themselves what is best. But, I’m also of the opinion that there is no possible way to make every deceptive marketing practice illegal. That just creates a maze of regulation and hurdles for companies to overcome that in the long run can hurt the free market as much as the activities they are designed to prevent.
Where does that leave me then? Well, we have to write a good law that broadly prohibits unfair marketing practices and then arm the regulators with investigative power and punishments with teeth. Easier said than done but I think it’s the only method to allow a fair playing field where everyone has an equal opportunity to market their product. This allows the consumers to pick the product they want the most which is the driving force that allows capitalism to be successful. When unfair practices pervert the field then capitalism is subverted. I could talk more about how the government has become a purveyor of promoting the businesses that contribute the most to their campaigns but I’ll save that for another blog.
So, what sort of law would I write to make the internet marketing field fair?
Something like this: “No one shall promote a product by whose sale they benefit, nor pay or otherwise recompense anyone else to do so, without noting their relationship with the aforementioned product.”
Probably not perfect and I could do better if I spent more than five minutes on it but basically it just prevents anyone from promoting something they stand to profit by without noting it. You can’t post a positive review or encourage anyone else to do so without noting it. You want to give five-star reviewers a discount, fine, you have to mention the discount in the product description. A little burdensome but I don’t think too much.
Tell me where I’ve slipped up!