The CMA has launched a formal investigation into Amazon and Google over allegations that they have not done enough to combat fake reviews on their websites. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will gather additional information in this phase of the investigation to determine whether these two companies violated consumer law by failing to take adequate steps to protect customers from fake reviews. The move follows an initial CMA investigation that began in May 2020 and evaluated several platforms' internal systems and processes for detecting and dealing with fake reviews. This work has raised specific concerns such as whether Amazon and Google have been doing enough to:
- Detect fake and misleading reviews or suspicious patterns of behaviour. For example, where the same users have reviewed the same range of products or businesses at similar times to each other and there is no connection between those products or businesses – or where the review suggests that the reviewer has received a payment or other incentive to write a positive review.
- Investigate and, where necessary, remove promptly fake and misleading reviews from their platforms.
- Impose adequate sanctions on reviewers or businesses to deter them and others from posting fake or misleading reviews on their platforms – including those who have published these types of reviews many times. The CMA is also concerned that Amazon's systems have been inadequate in preventing and discouraging some sellers from manipulating product listings, such as by stealing positive reviews from other products.
Fake and misleading reviews have the potential to affect businesses' star ratings as well as how prominently companies and products are displayed to consumers, potentially altering their entire shopping experience. If, after an investigation, the CMA determines that the firms have violated consumer protection laws, it has the authority to take enforcement action. This could include obtaining formal commitments from the companies to change their approach to fake reviews or, if necessary, escalating to court action. However, the CMA has not yet decided whether Amazon and Google have broken the law.