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Amazon and Google Being Formally Investigated for Fake Reviews

British regulators investigate whether Amazon and Google did enough in the fight to combat fake reviews

Front Page Tech - Jonathina Prosser

British regulators in the U.K. – or the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – have opened a formal probe into Amazon and Google over concerns that they have not been pulling their weight in the fight to combat fake reviews on their sites.

The probe is the latest in a string of investigations piling up against tech giants around the world, as officials and policymakers scrutinize claims of anti-competitive behavior.

On Friday, the U.K. CMA said the move comes after an initial CMA investigation, which opened in May 2020 and assessed several platforms’ internal systems and processes for identifying and dealing with fake reviews.

“In this next phase of the work, the Competititon and Markets Authority (CMA) will gather further information to determine whether these two firms may have broken consumer law by taking insufficient action to protect shoppers from fake reviews.”

– Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

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 – aka, gift card giveaways in return for a 5-star review.

PHOTO: NICOLE NGUYEN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s Chief Executive, had this to say:

“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations. 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. 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. 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.”

– Andrea Coscelli, CMA’s Chief Executive

The CMA said it has not reached a view on whether Amazon and Alphabet’s Google have broken the law; however, if it concludes they have broken consumer protection law, it can take enforcement action ranging from securing formal commitments to change the way they deal with fake reviews or escalating to court action. Yikes.

Amazon and Google said that they would cooperate with the CMA inquiry with an Amazon spokesperson saying the company devotes “significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store.” The company also says it prevented 200 million suspected fake reviews last year from being seen by customers around the world.

“Our strict policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take action — from removing abusive content to disabling user accounts”

– Google spokesperson

More information about the CMA’s probe into Amazon and Google can be found on the Online Reviews case page.

Looks like pulling brands like RAVPower from their online store because of fake/”paid” reviews might have just been the start.

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