Last year the CMA estimated that online reviews potentially influence £23bn of UK customer spending every year.
The Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into several major websites to examine whether they are doing enough to protect shoppers from fake and misleading reviews.
In particular, it will examine how the websites currently detect, investigate and respond to fake and misleading reviews, including the following issues:
The CMA is not currently alleging that any website has acted illegally. Through its work, the CMA wants to ensure that the websites have robust systems in place to find and remove fake reviews or reviews that mislead people about a product or business. However, if it finds that any of the websites are not doing what is legally required, the CMA will take enforcement action to secure the necessary changes, pursuing action through the courts if needed. If appropriate, the CMA will identify the companies involved at this point.
The announcement comes as the CMA has secured commitments from Instagram, which is operated by Facebook, to tackle the risk that people can buy and sell fake online reviews through its platform. Instagram has committed to provide for more robust systems to detect and remove this kind of harmful material from Instagram. This builds on the CMA’s previous work on online reviews, where it identified the trading of fake reviews on Facebook and eBay and secured commitments from them to tackle this issue. The CMA is not alleging that Facebook, eBay or Instagram intentionally allowed this content to appear on their websites.
Fake reviews are an unfair commercial practice under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1977).