The United Kingdom advocates for consumer protection all around the world.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a UK antitrust authority, has been investigating the problem of fake review trading by many of the world’s largest communication platforms in a case that has been ongoing since June 2019. Previously, the CMA had concentrated its efforts on Facebook, Instagram, and eBay. Amazon and Google have now been added to their list of potential partners.
Thus far the CMA has received cooperation from the bodies involved in this case, going so far as to publish updates about steps taken and a follow-up article calling the action from Facebook and eBay “a win for online shoppers.”
In the newest leg of this investigation, the CMA is launching “a formal probe” into Amazon and Google to determine if they have breached the UK’s consumer standards.
According to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, it is illegal to falsely represent oneself as a consumer, which is exactly what happens when a phoney review is placed on one of these sites. Within the same guidelines, some of the responsibility for policing these bogus reviews was put on the platform that hosted them, requiring professional vigilance towards customers.
“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.”
While Amazon and Google aren’t the ones selling false reviews, the CMA is looking into whether these internet titans have taken “insufficient action to protect shoppers.”
In other cases of these investigations within the same case, the CMA has stepped forwards and said that the other firms implicated were cooperating. The absence of such a declaration in this round of probes, along with perhaps more harsh language in this latest release, suggests that Amazon and Google have been less than cooperative with the CMA.
“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.”The investigation is part of a larger initiative by the CMA for establishing a “pro-competition regulatory regime.” If this initiative is successful, there could be benefits to small competitors to these companies worldwide.
Image Credit: Dylan Gillis