The competition watchdog has opened an investigation into several major websites over whether they are doing enough to protect shoppers from fake and misleading reviews.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it will probe how the sites detect, investigate and respond to issues such as suspicious reviews — for example where one user has reviewed an unlikely range of products or services.
It will also examine whether firms are manipulating reviews or providing users with payment or other incentives to write positive reviews.
The CMA did not name the websites being probed in its investigation and said it was not currently alleging that any platform had acted illegally.
“During lockdown, we’re more dependent than ever on online shopping, so it’s really important that the online reviews we read are genuine opinions,” said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.
“If someone is persuaded to buy something after reading a fake or misleading review, they could end up wasting their money on a product or service that wasn’t what they wanted.”
The watchdog said it would take enforcement action — including through the courts — if it found evidence that any of the websites were breaking the law.
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It comes after the CMA secured commitments from Instagram to crack down on people buying and selling fake reviews through its platform.
Facebook and Ebay have also pledged to better identify and respond to the trading of fake reviews on their sites following pressure from the watchdog.