Fake reviews and “subscription traps” are set to be made illegal under new laws being pushed through parliament.
Under new provisions, the competition watchdog plans to make it “clearly illegal” to pay someone to write fake reviews, and will have new powers to fine firms up to 10 per cent of their global turnover.
The rise of fake reviews has come alongside the wide e-commerce boom, which has resulted in fraudsters flooding the market to falsely incentivise people into buying products. This loses customers thousands of pounds a year.
The new provisions will mean the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) can put a heavier onus on sites, like Amazon, to ensure that customer reviews are genuine.
Consumer choice site Trustpilot said it “welcomes legislation introduced with the aim of protecting consumers from fake reviews”, whilst some have warned the rules should not be too erroneous on firms.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls also welcomed the move, but said: “As ever, the devil will be in the detail and so we will be actively engaging in the consultation process in order that consumers are safeguarded without placing any further unnecessary burdens on businesses.”
“We need also be satisfied that the new CMA powers will not unfairly punish businesses and, as 70% of hospitality businesses are SMEs, that a clear right of appeal is put in place that is accessible to operators big and small.”
It is understood that the average UK household spends about £900 each year after being influenced by online reviews and spends £60 on “unwanted subscriptions”.
The CMA is also looking at imposing rules that mean companies need to send reminders that free trials or introductory offers are coming to an end.