The UK competition regulator has opened an investigation into Amazon and Google over fake reviews on their sites.
The Competition and Markets Authority said that the two companies may not have done enough to detect and remove fake reviews and sanction customers who were leaving them. The regulator said it could take the internet groups to court if it found they had broken consumer protection law.
Amazon may also have failed to prevent sellers from manipulating product listings, for example by taking positive reviews from other products and using them on their own, the CMA said.
The update comes after the CMA secured a series of commitments from Facebook and Instagram over the same issue. In April Facebook agreed to ban users who repeatedly created profiles to encourage fake or misleading reviews and Instagram agreed to toughen up its systems.
“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations,” said Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive. “Equally, it’s simply not fair if some businesses can fake 5-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.”
He added: “We are investigating concerns that Amazon and Google have not been doing enough to prevent or remove fake reviews to protect customers and honest businesses. It’s important that these tech platforms take responsibility and we stand ready to take action if we find that they are not doing enough.”
In a statement, Amazon said: “To help earn the trust of customers, we devote significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store. We work hard to ensure that reviews accurately reflect the experience that customers have had with a product.”
It added: “We will continue to assist the CMA with its enquiries and we note its confirmation that no findings have been made against our business.”
Google was not immediately available for comment.
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