Amazon, Google Face U.K. Consumer Probe Into Fake Reviews

by BLOOMBERG

Amazon.com Inc. and Google are facing formal probes into possible violations of U.K. consumer protection rules over a failure to shield their users from an onslaught of fake reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority said Friday it has opened investigations to gather more information and decide whether the tech giants may have broken the law by not doing enough to address the problem. It follows an initial probe in May last year that looked at the way several platforms deal with phony reviews, the CMA said.

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“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations,” Andrea Coscelli, chief executive officer of the CMA, said in a statement. “It’s simply not fair if some businesses can fake five-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.”

Amazon and Google are facing intense regulatory scrutiny across Europe as authorities crack down on the power of the U.S. tech giants.

Two months ago, Facebook Inc. removed 16,000 posts dealing in fake or misleading reviews after the U.K. antitrust regulator moved to clamp down on the false reports. Amazon has said it blocked around 200 million suspected fake reviews last year before they were seen by customers. It said “bad actors” via social media platforms were to blame for some of them.

“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,” Coscelli said.

Amazon devotes “significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store,” the company said in an emailed response to the CMA’s announcement. Amazon said it will continue to assist the CMA, and “we note its confirmation that no findings have been made against our business.”

Google didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.