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Wannabe French Food Critic Fined $8,300 for Fake Online Restaurant Review

The restaurant had not opened yet when he filed his review.

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Loiseau Des Ducs/Facebook

You could be fined thousands of dollars for filing a fake restaurant review. According to the Local, a user of Pages Jaunes, a Yelp-like review site in France, was fined €7,500 ($8,300 USD) for his negative review of the Michelin-starred Loiseau Des Ducs in Dijon. The reviewer wrote that there restaurant was "very over-rated. It was all show, there was very little on the plate, and the only thing that was well loaded was the bill."

While the review was harsh, what made it worse was that it was completely fake. The user posted the review on Pages Jaunes five days before the restaurant had even opened. The owners of the restaurant shelled out €5,000 ($5,537 USD) to track down the user who wrote the "detrimental" review which could potentially be dissuasive to other customers. Ahlame Buisard, the director of the restaurant group, tells the BBC that the company "was not against real customers expressing positive or negative opinions, but that the case against the fake review was a point of principle."

The reviewer was found and then brought in front of a judge. After a two year court battle, writes Bien Public (translated), the restaurant group won its case. The user has been ordered to pay €2,500 ($2,768) in damages plus the costs of the restaurant for tracking him down.

Fake reviews are an issue that plague review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Restaurateurs across Europe have become increasingly frustrated with the ease with which users can write reviews of their restaurants, often without even having visited the establishment. An Italian magazine decided to reveal the flaws in TripAdvisor's system in July and created an imaginary restaurant with 10 fake reviews. In less than a month, the restaurant was rated the best in its town, showing how easily fake reviews can impact a restaurant's ranking. Since then, the magazine has started a campaign to force TripAdvisor to only let users post a review if they can provide proof that they have actually dined at the restaurant.