UK watchdog to investigate Google, Amazon over fake reviews

UK watchdog to investigate Google, Amazon over fake reviews
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The United Kingdom's competition watchdog is launching an investigation into fake reviews on Amazon and Google, the regulator said Friday. 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will probe whether the two U.S.-based tech giants are breaking consumer laws by taking insufficient action to protect consumers from fake reviews. 

The CMA’s latest probe follows an investigation launched last year into several platforms’ internal systems and processes for identifying and dealing with fake reviews. 

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The watchdog said the investigation has raised specific concerns about how Google and Amazon are detecting fake and misleading reviews or suspicious patterns of behavior.

The initial investigation also raised concerns about whether the companies are doing enough to investigate and promptly remove fake reviews, as well as impose adequate sanctions on reviewers or businesses to deter them from posting fake reviews. 

“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations. 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,” CMA's chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, said in a statement. 

The investigation may prompt the CMA to take enforcement action, such as leading to court, if the watchdog finds the firms have broken consumer protection law. 

Both companies defended their policies toward preventing fake reviews and committed to working with the CMA during its investigation. 

“We will continue to assist the CMA with its enquiries and we note its confirmation that no findings have been made against our business. We are relentless in protecting our store and will take action to stop fake reviews regardless of the size or location of those who attempt this abuse,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

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Google said they “take action” when they find fake reviews.

“Our strict policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take action — from removing abusive content to disabling user accounts. We look forward to continuing our work with the CMA to share more on how our industry-leading technology and review teams work to help users find relevant and useful information on Google,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. 

Updated at 10:03 a.m.