‘Astroturfing’ could mislead consumers and harm law-abiding businesses, CMA says.
The U.K.’s markets regulator has opened a formal investigation into Amazon and Google over concerns the platforms haven’t done enough to crack down on fake reviews on their sites.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in a statement released this morning that it will “gather further information to determine whether these two firms may have broken consumer law.”
The announcement comes after the CMA opened a probe last year to assess platforms’ systems for tackling fake reviews, also known as astroturfing.
“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 CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli in a statement. “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.”
He added: “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.”
“We devote significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store,” Amazon said in a statement. “We work hard to ensure that reviews accurately reflect the experience that customers have had with a product. We will continue to assist the CMA with its enquiries and we note its confirmation that no findings have been made against our business. We are relentless in protecting our store and will take action to stop fake reviews.”
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the company’s “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.”
The CMA said that if it finds the companies broke consumer law, it can take enforcement action, including “securing formal commitments from the firms to change the way they deal with fake reviews or escalating to court action if needed.”
This article was updated with Amazon’s and Google’s statements.Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a complimentary trial.
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