The British Competition and Markets Authority has launched a follow-up investigation into Amazon and Google, with the central question being whether the two companies are taking enough action to combat fake reviews on their platforms.
The CMA ‘s investigation is a continuation of an earlier investigation into fake reviews . This first study was started more than a year ago and focused on ‘a number of large online stores’. The goal then was to see how they detect and remove fake reviews. The new research focuses specifically on Amazon and Google because the previous research raised three specific “concerns” with these two platforms.
One of these concerns is whether Amazon and Google are doing enough to detect fake and misleading reviews or “suspicious patterns.” By suspicious patterns, the CMA refers to users who have “reviewed the same set of products or companies at comparable times, with no association between these products or companies.” Other suspicious patterns are that there are ‘indications’ within a review that the writer has been given money or other incentives to write a positive review.
The second concerns whether the two companies are fast enough to detect fake and misleading reviews and, if necessary, remove them from their platforms. The third point concerns whether Amazon and Google impose sufficient sanctions on reviewers or companies to deter them and other parties from posting fake or misleading reviews.
In addition, there is a fourth point that focuses only on Amazon. The CMA is concerned that Amazon’s systems are not doing enough to prevent manipulated product listings. The authority cites as an example that some sellers would use positive reviews of other products for these product listings.
The CMA says the research is important because “millions” of consumers could be misled by fake and erroneous reviews. “It’s also unfair if some companies can pretend they get five-star customer reviews and get a lot of attention, while companies that follow the law lose this attention,” the regulator said.
Should the CMA conclude after the investigation that the two companies have violated consumer protection laws, the regulator can take action. For example, the authority could establish formal commitments with the two companies to ensure they handle fake reviews differently. If necessary, the supervisor could also go to court. However, the CMA emphasizes that it has not been determined at this time whether the two companies are actually breaking the law.
Amazon told the BBC that the company is using “significant resources” to fight fake and “incentivized” reviews. According to The Guardian, Amazon removed 200 million suspected fake reviews last year before they were seen by customers. At the same time, the company calls the battle against ‘fake review companies’ difficult to win. As far as is known, Google has not yet responded to the new CMA investigation.