back to article UK competition watchdog launches investigation into fake review epidemic across Google and Amazon

Google and Amazon are waiting to hear about their own five-star rating today after the UK's competition regulator announced it had opened a formal investigation into fake reviews on their platforms. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wants to know whether the online beasts have broken consumer law by taking " …

  1. Peter Galbavy
    FAIL

    Hopefully the CMA will see through the nonsensical veneer, especially from Amazon, about "taking action when we are alerted" as it is effectively impossible to report both fake (or seemingly fake) reviews or sellers contacting reviewers who give honest but negative reviews and offering incentives to remove or edit them. Last time I tried I found a specific email address (for Amazon UK) that in itself was well hidden and then returned "this mailbox is not monitored".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Product Switching

    Thousands of +ve reviews for a plant pot sold on Amazon and then the seller switches it for some overpriced electrical tat.

    Again no way to really report it.

  3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Does anyone actually pay much attention to 5* or 1* reviews? I always assume that 5* are fake, and 1* are vindictive, so I usually read the 2* & 4* and make my own call on whether they are believable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I ignored the 1* reviews on a pair of Columbia boot recently. Wish I hadn't. Boot upper ripped through after a month of light use. Out of the return period, but Amazon granted a no quibble full refund. Looking at the dozen 1* out of ~1000 reviews: exact same failure.

    2. Andy Non Silver badge

      I tend to read the most recent reviews first to see if there is a negative trend over a period of several months. Fake positive reviews tend to be grouped together over a short period.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      I usually try to find the most detailed reviews, which isn't automatic but does help. Someone who can speak at length about using the product probably has useful information. I also tend to ignore the star count until after having read their comments.

      There are also some tools that try to strip out the most obvious fakes and give you an adjusted rating. No promises for their utility, but I've used reviewmeta.com with success.

    4. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      I read them both, to check that the 5* reviews are genuine is not that difficult, and find out if the 1* reviews are due to unreasonable expectations or some probably random adverse incident.

      I have given a 5* review once, because the product was excellent, and although not perfect, 4* would not have done it justice. I don't recall giving any 1* reviews so far.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        I'm one of the person that gives 1* reviews. It says, simply, that I would not buy that again, and I'm sorry that I did in the first place. Not sure how that's vindictive, just honest.

        On some platforms, you're giving stars for the seller, not the item. Try to be fair there, but there's a lot of vendors that have absolutely zero business in selling things--from horrible packaging to misrepresentation and so on. I think you could argue that's vindictive as well, and it quite arguably could be. And yet, it's the sort of review that I wish I saw before trying to purchase something from that vendor and having a horrible experience.

        Fortunately the fake reviews are generally detectable if you've been researching a product for awhile.

  4. iron Silver badge

    Did someone in UK gov buy a '3 wolf and moon' shirt but it didn't have the requisite panty dropping effect?

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Scammers

    I wonder what is the outcome of what was (maybe still is?) going on Amazon where scammers would create accounts using stolen personal data, order products to real addresses and then write reviews?

    You don't have to be a data guru to find out accounts with the same name and address in the database that suddenly have different spending pattern and write reviews?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Scammers

      Isn't this exactly the sort things that can be done with "big data"? At least that's what Amazon claim in other circumstances.

  6. gerryg

    "verified purchase"

    The 1896 sale of goods act (which lasted until 1970's) was sub-titled "caveat emptor".

    I read the reviews and decide what to make of some of the outliers. I also look at the profile. If there are a lot of 1 star I read them carefully. But most of all I read the "verified purchase" reviews. Ones where people have parted with hard cash.

    It's not fool proof but one can eliminate a lot of the trolls, loons and liars.

    I've also read some product assessments in that well known consumer magazine and found them less than helpful (washing machines, for example, you can indeed ignore advice to spend the price of a small car).

    Would it be better if there no reviews?

  7. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Alert

    Shock, horror

    it is almost as if one cannot trust the up and down votes on the Register.

    Eek!

  8. Roger B

    Just after Christmas my amazon account was "stolen" from me, I admit, my own fault, I had a crappy password that may of been there since my account opened in '99. I was told Amazon would fix it within 48 hours, it took about 3 months before someone in the accounts team seemed genuinely surprised I had been waiting so long to get the account back under my control. anyway, whilst the account was not under my control, I had removed my payment details, and the new owner had added theirs, but not changed the delivery address, so I started to receive felt glitter pens, exercise bands, and other assorted tat, when I found these items in the store they all had 5 stars and within a day or so of my delivery "I" was also leaving glowing 5 star reviews. All the sellers were third party, and after hunting through seller details they were all China based. After I regained control of my account, the 5 star reviews "I" had left were removed, and the items removed from my purchase history, BUT, there must still be a record on my account somewhere as when prospective customers ask questions I receive an email asking if I can help. I gladly reply explaining the seller is likely a con and they are best buying somewhere else. also interesting to note, the item on the page seems to occasionally change, but the reviews remain the same. The whole amazon review system, even when its just their own stock is complete bollocks, DVD/Bluray/4K Bluray reviews for standard/collectors and limited editions all mixed in is a particular annoyance. The positive outcome of me loosing control of my account though was I saved some cash and found a few alternatives for items I would usually go to Amazon for.

  9. HAL-9000
    Childcatcher

    Shock horror

    Fake online reviews???!!! Golly gosh, I never knew such things were possible

    \s

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Shock horror

      ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐comment A+ would read againthis product is graet

  10. HildyJ Silver badge
    WTF?

    Trust no one

    We are bombarded by fake reviews in all walks of life. I don't see much that Amazon (and, even less, Google) can do about it. I searched "get paid to review amazon products" and got 1,780 hits on that exact phrase.

    And I'm not sure why the competition watchdog chose this bone to pick. Of all the things I'm concerned about with Amazon, fake reviews are low on the list.

    Caveat Emptor

  11. mercyground

    the rise of amazon courting cheap chinese suppliers that give zero fucks will bite them in ass.

    I'm so tired of trying to find shit on amazon lately. the real sellers are buried under a ton of chinese tat i have no desire to buy. And its utterly ridiculous you cannot filter by "uk only" suppliers like on ebay. infact one would surmise that this is deliberate by amazon.

    if you want a rage inducing afternoon? try sorting by price low to high when you trying to find stuff... its a farce. you will find suddenly you have PAGES to sort out instead of the few "amazon prefered" they originally gave you. Almost like on purpose to force you to take their defaults.

    Its an utter joke.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the rise of amazon courting cheap chinese suppliers that give zero fucks will bite them in ass.

      If anyone is bitten in the ass it's those people who keep buying 5-star reviewed shit and the penny never drops why this shit is shit. Again. And again. While amazon are doing very, very well thankyou!

  12. m-k

    UK competition watchdog launches investigation

    3035: a report has been issued by the UK competition watchdog that confirms what many have suspected for years, which others dismissed as fake news: fake review epidemic across Google and Amazon DOES exist! The watchdog has written to both companies requesting them to take decisive action. Both companies responded by issuing a statement that they already offer a robust mechanism to combat the relatively minor issue, which has resulted in 3.5M fake reviews removed; they have also promised to redouble their efforts to implement cutting-edge technology to continue their relentless fight against what they both claim is an "issue that, while affecting only a tiny percentage of our customers, does undermine their confidence in otherwise robust and effective vetting process". The UK watchdog has issued further statement in response to their statement that said it will monitor further developments in this field, while also issuing a further-further statement, that 'consumers must have confidence that online reviews are genuine and unbiased'.

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