UK watchdog investigates Amazon, Google for fake product reviews

By KELVIN CHAN
AP Business Writer

LONDON (AP) – UK regulators said on Friday they were investigating Google and Amazon over concerns that online giants were not doing enough to stop bogus reviews of products and services on their platforms.

The Markets and Competition Authority said it has opened a formal investigation to determine whether the two companies violated UK consumer law by failing to protect buyers. The watchdog began reviewing fake reviews on some major websites last year – without identifying specific ones – amid the pandemic-fueled online shopping boom.

“Our concern is that millions of online shoppers could be misled into reading bogus reviews and then spending their money on the basis of those recommendations,” said watchdog chief executive Andrea Coscelli. , in a press release.

“Likewise, it’s just not fair that some companies can fake 5-star reviews to give their products or services the utmost importance, while law-abiding companies lose out.”

The AMC said its investigation has yet to determine whether any of the companies have violated consumer protection law. If this is the case, the watchdog could demand that he change the way he handles false notices or that he be sued.

Google and Amazon have said they will work with UK regulators on the investigation.

“To help earn the trust of customers, we are devoting significant resources to preventing false reviews or giveaways from appearing in our store,” Amazon said in a statement. The company said it was working hard to ensure that reviews “accurately reflect the experience customers have had with a product” and noted that it blocked 200 million fake reviews before they were released. are seen by buyers.

Google said its “strict rules make it clear that reviews should be based on actual experiences, and when we see rule violations, we take action – from removing abusive content to disabling user accounts.” .

The CMA said its initial investigation, which began last year, raised specific concerns about whether the two companies had done enough to detect bogus and misleading reviews and promptly remove them from their sites.

He is particularly concerned about “suspicious behavior patterns” involving reviews, for example when the same users are reviewing the same unrelated products or businesses at around the same time.

Another red flag is when a positive review suggests the reviewer was paid or prompted to write it, the CMA said.

The watchdog said it wonders if Google and Amazon are doing enough to impose adequate penalties on reviewers or companies caught posting false or misleading reviews, in order to deter frequent violators.

He also specifically investigates whether Amazon’s systems are preventing some sellers from manipulating product listings by combining positive reviews for one product with a listing for another.

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