Fake reviews crackdown: government warning for ecommerce sites

The UK government is taking a stand against fake reviews online: one of the biggest issues impacting consumer trust today.

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The government has warned ecommerce retailers that fake reviews will soon join a list of prohibited practices, with fresh guidance being finalised in the coming months. 

Businesses will be held accountable for hosting fake star ratings and user testimonies on their sites, as part of a government initiative to improve consumer experiences when buying online.

In the previous year, consumer group Which? brought attention to the extensive issue of fake reviews. Despite repeated interventions by the Competition and Markets Authority, Facebook groups requesting fake reviews on platforms like Amazon, Google, and Trustpilot continued to flourish.

Fighting fake reviews continues

Fake online reviews afflict the web at a vast scale. During 2022, Amazon identified upwards of 23,000 social media groups, boasting over 46 million members and followers, actively involved in orchestrating fake reviews.

In the ongoing fight against fraudulent reviews, Amazon has been using AI to combat AI. The company remains committed to enhancing customer and seller protection on its platform through investments in more advanced and sophisticated tools.

Analysts estimate that approximately one in seven reviews in the UK may be fraudulent, with social media groups often being held accountable for the proliferation of deceptive reviews.

Following the UK government’s announcement today, website owners will be held responsible for the reviews posted on their platforms. However, the government has stopped short of saying it will criminalise hosting fake reviews.

Any penalties for failing to address fake reviews have not yet been communicated, and the government is expected to reveal more details of its plans later this year.

Consumer watchdog leads fight

Which? has lauded the crackdown on fake reviews, but insists that the government should take further action on all forms of false advertising.

Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which? advocates the need for criminalising fake reviews’ to ensure greater responsibility on online platforms, and to protect consumers effectively.

“Millions of us use online reviews to help us choose a product or service,” Concha says. “So, it’s particularly disappointing to see ministers stop short of criminalising trading and hosting of fake reviews – a necessary step to deter unscrupulous businesses and make online platforms take greater responsibility. Ministers must look again at these proposals if they are to properly protect consumers.”

Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

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