CMA to investigate Amazon and Google regarding fake reviews

The CMA is concerned that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations

The CMA has opened a formal investigation into Amazon and Google over concerns that they have not been doing enough to deal with fake reviews on their sites. This follows an initial CMA investigation which started in May 2020. The CMA assessed several platforms’ internal systems and processes for identifying and dealing with fake reviews.

The CMA intends to gather further information to decide if Amazon and Google may have broken consumer law by taking insufficient action to protect shoppers from fake reviews.

The CMA’s initial work has raised specific concerns such as whether they have been doing enough to:

  • Detect fake and misleading reviews or suspicious patterns of behaviour. For example, where the same users have reviewed the same range of products or businesses at similar times to each other and there is no connection between those products or businesses, or where the review suggests that the reviewer has received a payment or other incentive to write a positive review.
  • Investigate and, where necessary, remove promptly fake and misleading reviews from their platforms.
  • Impose adequate sanctions on reviewers or businesses to deter them and others from posting fake or misleading reviews on their platforms, including those who have published these types of reviews many times.

The CMA is also concerned that Amazon’s systems have been failing adequately to prevent and deter some sellers from manipulating product listings – for example, by co-opting positive reviews from other products.

Fake and misleading reviews have the potential to affect businesses’ star ratings and how prominently companies and products are displayed to consumers, changing their whole shopping experience.

If, after investigating, the CMA considers that the companies have broken consumer protection law, it can take enforcement action. This could include securing formal commitments from the companies to change the way they deal with fake reviews or escalating to court action if needed. However, the CMA has not reached a view on whether Amazon and Google have broken the law at this stage.

This latest work builds on action taken by the CMA last year over the trading of fake reviews, which resulted in Facebook, Instagram and eBay removing groups and banning individuals for buying and selling fake reviews on their sites.

The CMA’s investigation into fake reviews is part of a broader programme of CMA work, which includes establishing a new pro-competition regulatory regime for digital markets, to curb the power of big tech. This will be achieved through the Digital Markets Unit. As the CMA works with the UK government on proposals, it will continue to use its existing powers to their fullest extent to examine and protect competition in these areas.

Published: 2021-06-30T10:45:00

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