UK to probe Amazon and Google over fake reviews

25 Jun 2021

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The UK’s competition regulator is investigating the tech giants’ actions on moderating fraudulent reviews on their platforms.

The UK’s competition watchdog is investigating how Amazon and Google tackle fake reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority is probing whether the companies have taken sufficient action against fake reviews online and if inaction violates consumer protection laws.

Its investigation will examine the processes that the companies use in detecting and removing fake and misleading reviews or reviews that have been paid for, and what steps are taken to deter these reviews and keep bad actors off their platforms.

For Amazon in particular, fake reviews have been a scourge as sellers try to gin up their products with glowing appraisals to boost sales. A cottage industry has emerged selling fake reviews for merchants.

Earlier this month, Amazon called on social media platforms for help in stemming fake and fraudulent reviews while criticising those platforms for failing to tackle review selling on their sites.

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

“Equally, it’s simply 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 investigation will determine if consumer laws have been violated and, if so, will take enforcement action.

“We are investigating concerns that Amazon and Google have not been doing enough to prevent or remove fake reviews to protect customers and honest businesses,” Coscelli added. “It’s important that these tech platforms take responsibility and we stand ready to take action if we find that they are not doing enough.”

The investigation isn’t looking at Facebook, which has faced its own challenges when it comes to fraudulent reviews.

Of late, the CMA has taken on a more active role in policing Big Tech companies. It also recently established a new division within the organisation to focus solely on tech.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin