Fake Amazon reviews could become illegal
The UK government has outlined plans to help regulators stamp out black hat tactics used to manipulate people searching for goods and services online.
The move also includes punishing businesses that trick consumers into spending more than they want to, and ‘negative nudges’ - when businesses pay to have their product feature highly on a trader's website while hiding the fact they paid for it.
The BBC’s consumer affairs correspondent Colletta Smith explained: “For many of us it's become almost second nature to check a review site before buying or booking everything from restaurants, to holiday accommodation or trades people. Reviews matter, and that's why a whole industry has been spawned paying people to churn out fake positive reviews.
“The regulator has been making noises about trying to clamp down for a while, but now the government wants to tighten up the rules and make it illegal to pay someone to write or host a fake review. Hitting the host sites as well as the company being reviewed is the easier and potentially more effective way of trying to tackle the problem, rather than playing whack-a-mole with individual reviews that emerge.
“The difficulty, as ever, is going to be enforcement because regulators are always playing catch-up. New teeth for the Competition and Markets Authority will help but can never provide full protection for consumers.”
Thompson and Holt managing partner Craig Gedey has welcomed the move. He said: “While this legislation is not aimed directly or exclusively at Amazon, it will doubtless resonate both with them and businesses operating on the site. Fake reviews has long been a major issue for Amazon, and we have seen and written about this issue, most notably here: https://www.thompsonandholt.com/post/fake-reviews-on-amazon-exposed-in-new-report.
“While this new move is just in the United Kingdom, it will be very interesting to monitor both its success and impact, with other countries’ governments sure to be watching. At Thompson and Holt we applaud any positive moves to eradicate fake reviews online because they unfairly affect the market, negatively impact ethical sellers and lead to bad experiences for consumers.”
The UK government has said that under their proposals there will be tougher penalties for those who break the law, with new powers for the Competition and Markets Authority to issue fines of up to 10 percent of a firm's global turnover. The CMA will be able to enforce consumer law directly, rather than having to go through a court process, the government said.
Consumer champion Which? said the plans should be “swiftly implemented”.
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