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UK regulator CMA launches investigation of Amazon and Google over fake reviews

·2-min read
 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

A formal probe into whether Google and Amazon are doing enough to combat fake reviews on their sites was today opened by the competition watchdog.

The move by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) comes a year after it began investigating how the industry identifies and deals with bogus reviews.

The CMA said today it had specific concerns in relation to Amazon and Google, including their detection of suspicious patterns of behaviour and how quickly they remove misleading reviews and impose sanctions on those responsible.

It is also concerned that Amazon’s systems are not adequately preventing sellers from manipulating product listings, such as by co-opting positive reviews from other products.

When a consumer finds a business through the Google search engine or Google maps, the result shows a star rating and a link to see all previous reviews. The internet giant tells customers it has “no tolerance for fake reviews” and that comments are taken down if others label them as inaccurate or against other policies. The ability to search for products on Amazon based on the average customer star rating makes the review system particularly important for retailers selling on the platform.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations.”

Should it find the firms have broken consumer law, the CMA can take enforcement action and escalate to court action if necessary.

The review has already prompted Facebook, Instagram and eBay to remove groups and ban individuals for buying and selling fake reviews on their sites.

Amazon said: “To help earn the trust of customers, we devote significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store. We work hard to ensure that reviews accurately reflect the experience that customers have had with a product. We will continue to assist the CMA with its enquiries and we note its confirmation that no findings have been made against our business. We are relentless in protecting our store and will take action to stop fake reviews regardless of the size or location of those who attempt this abuse.”

A Google spokesman said: “Our strict policies clearly 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. We look forward to continuing our work with the CMA to share more on how our industry-leading technology and review teams work to help users find relevant and useful information on Google.”

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