UK watchdog probes Amazon, Google for fake reviews of goods

by Joseph K. Clark

U.K. regulators are investigating Google and Amazon over concerns the online giants aren’t doing enough to stop fake reviews of products and services on their platforms

The Competition and Markets Authority formally investigated whether the two companies broke U.K. consumer law by failing to protect shoppers. The watchdog started looking into fake reviews on some big websites last year – without identifying any specific ones – amid the pandemic-fueled boom in online shopping.

“We worry that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations,” the watchdog’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli said in a press statement.

Amazon

“Equally, it’s not fair if some businesses can fake 5-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.”

The CMA said its investigation has not determined whether either company broke consumer protection law. If it does, the watchdog could change how they deal with fake reviews or be taken to court. Google and Amazon said they will work with U.K. regulators on the investigation.

“To help earn the trust of customers, we devote significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store,” Amazon said in a statement. The company said it works hard to ensure reviews “accurately reflect customers’ experience with a product”. It noted that it blocked 200 million fake reviews before shoppers saw them.

Google said its “strict policies state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take action – from removing abusive content to disabling user accounts.”

The CMA said its initial probe that began last year raised specific concerns about whether the two companies had done enough to detect fake and misleading reviews and remove them quickly from their sites.

It’s particularly concerned about “suspicious patterns of behavior” involving reviews, for example, when the same users review unrelated products or businesses around the same time.

The CMA said another red flag is when a positive review suggests the reviewer was paid or received an incentive to write it.

The watchdog said it’s questioning whether Google and Amazon are doing enough to pay adequate penalties to reviewers or businesses caught posting false or misleading reviews to deter frequent offenders.

It’s also looking specifically into whether Amazon’s systems are failing to stop some sellers from manipulating product listings by combining positive reviews for one product with a listing for a different one.

Related Posts