UK Antitrust Watchdog Opens Investigation Against Amazon, Google Over Fake Product Reviews

Google and Amazon are facing a probe by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of the United Kingdom. The CMA said that the two companies are being probed over fake product reviews. British regulators said that these companies broke consumer protection law. Both the companies failed to do enough to protect shoppers from fake reviews of products online. Regulators and policymakers are already investigating several claims of anti-competitive behavior by tech giants around the world. The probe is just an addition to already piled up ongoing investigations. The investigation by the UK regulator can result in hefty fines on Google and Amazon. This can also result in an increased pressure on companies to change the way they work. The British regulator said that the investigation was based on a preliminary probe that was launched last May. It said that the formal inquiry may result in court action. This may even force the companies to change the way they deal with fake reviews.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said that they are worried about millions of online shoppers who can be misled by these fake reviews. “We are concern about millions of online customers who spend money after reading based on those recommendations and fake reviews. “At the same time, it is not fair if those businesses following are deprived of the opportunity because of those who can fake 5-star reviews. Based on these fake reviews, their products or services get prominence while others stay behind,” the statement reads. An investigation by the UK consumer group unraveled a thriving industry of fake reviews on Amazon’s marketplace. It was found that a company had around 62,000 reviewers globally. Out of this, 20,000 were based in the United Kingdom. The company would sell reviews as individual reviews or in bulk packages. For individual reviews, it would anything around USD 18 and for bulk packages the charges were starting from USD 863 for 50 reviews.

Google and Amazon have stated that they would offer full cooperation into the inquiry. Commenting on it, an Amazon spokesperson said that the company devotes a significant amount of resources to check and control incentivized or fake reviews on the company’s store. The company said it managed to stop around 200 million suspected fake reviews last year. “We have already filed a lawsuit against at least two websites mentioned in the investigation,” the spokesperson said. Google also said that they take strict action whenever any violation of their policies on reviews is found. “We have very strict policies for this. Whenever there is a violation, we make sure to strictest against it. We not only remove that content but also disable user accounts,” a Google spokesperson said. With series of such complaints in the past, European regulators are increasing pressure on these companies. Several probes have been announced into their business practices in June itself. The CMA also said that it is investigating the dominance of Google and Apple in mobile operating systems, web browsers, and app stores.