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15 July 2021

Tech giants investigated over fake reviews

Amazon and Google under investigation in UK over fake reviews.

Amazon and Google have attracted the attention of the UK’s competition watchdog over concerns they’re not doing enough to combat fake reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating whether the two giants have broken consumer law by failing to protect shoppers from faux recommendations.

The move comes a year after the CMA started digging into the companies’ processes for identifying and dealing with fake reviews.

“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 five-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out,” Coscelli said.

Fake reviews aren’t a new phenomenon. But they’ve been a growth business as online shopping has surged.

In 2019, we looked at more than 1800 reviews left by top-ranked reviewers on Amazon Australia. The overwhelming majority were positive, with an average rating between four and five stars.

When we asked Amazon to investigate reviews that raised red flags, the company said it had taken “appropriate action” but failed to clarify what this was.

How to spot a fake review

Telltale signs you’re not getting the full picture include:

  • reviews using stock phrases that could apply to almost anything

  • a series of glowing reviews appearing at the same time

  • sites that don’t clearly state how their ratings work.

To protect yourself from being caught out, don’t rely on reviews alone. Do your homework about a product or service before you buy, especially if it’s a pricey purchase.

If you think the reviews on a website aren’t legit and it’s a company operating in our market, report it to the Commerce Commission.

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