Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said:
“We’ve exposed how fake or paid-for reviews are a huge problem on online platforms, and can mislead customers about the quality and safety of the products they are buying.
“Unfortunately the situation looks like it is getting worse, not better, so it’s encouraging that the CMA is taking the first step to tackle the issue.
“Writing or commissioning fake or incentivised reviews is in breach of consumer law and can lead to criminal action for the individuals responsible. Online platforms that facilitate the trade of fake reviews also have to take this matter seriously and move past the inefficient whack-a-mole approach of only removing fake reviews and groups after they spring up.
“If they fail to put the systems and rules in place to address the problem, or these groups simply appear elsewhere, the CMA must urgently consider what action is needed to stamp out the scourge of fake reviews.”
Notes to editors
Tips for consumers
- Take extra care shopping for brands you don’t know
Scrutinise customer reviews even more carefully if you’re looking to buy a brand you don’t recognise, as our research indicates they are significantly more likely to be affected by fake reviews.
- Be suspicious of large numbers of reviews
If you see hundreds or even thousands of reviews – be suspicious, especially if they are largely positive.
- Look for repetition
If you see the same review titles, repetitive phrases or even the same reviewer name appear more than once on a product, it’s very likely that it has been targeted by fake reviews.
- Filter to check for unverified versus verified reviews
Reviews marked as ‘verified’ are those that Amazon can confirm were purchased at its website. Unverified reviews do not undergo any such checks. Therefore, unverified reviews are far easier to ‘fake’ – in that they could be written by someone who has had no experience at all with the product.
- Look at the dates
If large numbers of reviews were posted on the same day, or in a short period of time, it’s very likely that they are fake – especially if they are also unverified.
- Check seller profiles
Things you might be wary of are foreign seller locations, strange business names, a lack of contact details, and of course, negative reviews of the seller. Check out the seller profile page before you buy to see if anything seems out of place.