A trade watchdog in the United Kingdom is launching an investigation into what the world’s largest e-tailers are doing to combat fake reviews on their platforms.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced earlier today that it has opened a formal probe into Amazon and Google over concerns that the companies’ efforts to protect consumers from falsified reviews are insufficient.
Following the announcement, the CMA will now begin gathering information to determine whether the two firms may have broken consumer law.
News of the probe comes after an initial CMA investigation, opened in May 2020, raised concerns about the systems currently in place at Google and Amazon to handle fake reviews.
The investigation assessed several platforms’ internal systems and processes for identifying and dealing with the issue. Its findings suggest that Amazon and Google may not have been doing enough to detect fake and misleading reviews or suspicious patterns of behavior, such as a review that suggests that the reviewer received a payment or other incentive to leave positive feedback.
CMA’s initial investigation also suggested that Google and Amazon may have failed to adequately investigate and, where necessary, promptly remove misleading and fake reviews. Investigators also found that the sanctions imposed by the two companies on the businesses and reviewers behind the fake reviews may be inadequate.
“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spend their money based on those recommendations,” said Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive.
She added: “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 voiced further concerns that Amazon has failed to prevent and deter some sellers from manipulating product listings – for example, by co-opting positive reviews from other products.
“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,” said Coscelli.
“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.”