A UK regulator is looking into whether Amazon and Google are doing enough to combat fake reviews, and has threatened to take the tech giants to court if they are found to be breaking consumer protection laws.
After an initial investigation “raised specific concerns” about the prevalence of fake reviews, the Competition and Markets Authority announced Friday that it had opened a formal investigation into Amazon and Google.
Furthermore, the regulator expressed concern about whether Amazon and Google do enough to investigate fake reviews and punish perpetrators harshly enough to deter them from breaking the rules in the future.
After a February report revealed the vast scale of Amazon “review manipulation” services that promise to push products to the top of search results and even help secure coveted “Amazon’s Choice” labels, the company has made the move.
According to the investigation by the UK consumer advocacy group “Which?”, some businesses can pay thousands of dollars for packages of fake reviews, while others offer cheap or free products in exchange for reviews.
Fake reviews can harm consumers by leading them to low-quality products, as well as businesses that follow the rules by giving shady competitors an advantage, according to the UK’s competition regulator.
“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations,” said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority. “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.”
In a statement to The Post, an Amazon spokesperson said the company is “relentless in protecting our store.”
“We devote significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to assist the CMA with its enquiries and we note its confirmation that no findings have been made against our business.”
According to Amazon, over 200 million fake reviews were taken down last year before they were ever seen by a customer.
The competition regulator will take Amazon and Google to court if it believes they have broken consumer protection laws. The investigation was not given a time frame by the regulator.
A request for comment from Google was not immediately returned.