Published On: Fri, Jun 25th, 2021

Amazon and Google face UK CMA examine over feign reviews

The UK’s foe watchdog, a CMA, has non-stop another examination into Big Tech — this one targeted during Amazon and Google over how good they hoop (or, well, don’t) feign reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority has taken an seductiveness in online reviews for several years, as distant behind as 2015.

It also went after eBay and Facebook behind in 2019 to try to fist a trade in feign reviews it found abounding on their marketplaces. After stability to vigour those platforms a watchdog was given pledges they’d do more. Albeit, in a box of Facebook, it took until Apr 2021 for it to take down 16,000 groups that had been trade feign reviews — and a CMA voiced beating that it had taken Facebook over a year to take suggestive action.

Facebook and eBay oath to do some-more to tackle trade in feign reviews after vigour from UK regulator

Now a CMA has Amazon and Google in a sites, both of that control platforms hosting user reviews — observant it will be entertainment justification to establish either they might have damaged UK law by holding deficient movement to strengthen shoppers from feign reviews.

Businesses that trick consumers or don’t take movement to forestall consumers being misled might be in crack of UK laws dictated to strengthen consumers from astray trading.

The CMA says a examination into Amazon and Google follows an initial probe, that it started in May 2020, that was focused on assessing several platforms’ inner systems and processes for identifying and traffic with feign reviews.

That work lifted specific concerns about either a dual tech giants have been doing adequate to:

  • Detect feign and dubious reviews or questionable patterns of behaviour. For example, where a same users have reviewed a same operation of products or businesses during identical times to any other and there is no tie between those products or businesses – or where a examination suggests that a reviewer has perceived a remuneration or other inducement to write a certain review.
  • Investigate and, where necessary, mislay soon feign and dubious reviews from their platforms.
  • Impose adequate sanctions on reviewers or businesses to deter them and others from posting feign or dubious reviews on their platforms – including those who have published these forms of reviews many times.

The regulator also pronounced it’s endangered that Amazon’s systems have been “failing sufficient to forestall and deter some sellers from utilizing product listings” — such as, for example, by co-opting certain reviews from other products.

And, well, who hasn’t been browsing product reviews on Amazon, usually to be drawn adult brief by a reviewer sincerely referring to product attributes that clearly bear no propinquity to a sale object in question?

While a user reviews that cocktail adult on, for example, Google Maps after a hunt for a internal business can also arrangement ‘unusual patterns‘ of 5-starring (or 1-starring) behaviour…

Commenting on a examination into concerns that Amazon and Google are not doing adequate to fight a problem of feign reviews a CMA’s CEO Andrea Coscelli had this to say, in a statement:

“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading feign reviews and afterwards spending their income formed on those recommendations. Equally, it’s simply not satisfactory if some businesses can feign 5-star reviews to give their products or services a many prominence, while law-abiding businesses mislay out.

“We are questioning concerns that Amazon and Google have not been doing adequate to forestall or mislay feign reviews to strengthen business and honest businesses. It’s critical that these tech platforms take shortcoming and we mount prepared to take movement if we find that they are not doing enough.”

Amazon and Google were contacted for comment.

A Google Spokesperson sent us this statement:

“Our despotic policies clearly state reviews contingency be formed on genuine experiences, and when we find process violations, we take movement — from stealing violent calm to disabling user accounts. We demeanour brazen to stability a work with a CMA to share some-more on how a industry-leading record and examination teams work to assistance users find applicable and useful information on Google.”

An Amazon orator also said:

“To assistance acquire a trust of customers, we persevere poignant resources to preventing feign or incentivized reviews from appearing in a store. We work tough to safeguard that reviews accurately simulate a knowledge that business have had with a product.  We will continue to support a CMA with a enquiries and we note a acknowledgment that no commentary have been done opposite a business. We are relentless in safeguarding a store and will take movement to stop feign reviews regardless of a distance or plcae of those who try this abuse.”

In a blog post progressing this month, Amazon — expected wakeful of a CMA’s courtesy on a emanate — discussed a problem of fraudulent online reviews, claiming it “relentlessly innovates to concede usually genuine product reviews in a store”; and charity adult some scholastic stats (such as that, in 2020 alone, it stopped some-more than 200M “suspected feign reviews” before they were seen by any customers, mostly around a use of “proactive detection”).

However a blog post was also heavily on a defensive — with a ecommerce hulk seeking to spread a censure for a feign reviews problem — saying, for example, that there’s an “increasing trend of bad actors attempting to appeal feign reviews outward Amazon, quite around amicable media services”. 

It sought to support feign reviews as an industry-wide problem, wanting a coordinated, industry-wide resolution — while renting a heaviest glow for (unnamed) “social media companies” (cough Facebook cough) — and suggesting, for example, that they are a diseased couple in a chain:

We need amicable media companies whose services are being used to promote feign reviews to proactively deposit in rascal and feign examination controls, partner with us to stop these bad actors, and assistance consumers emporium with confidence. It will take consistent creation and partnership opposite industries and law coercion to entirely strengthen consumers and a honest offered partners.”

Amazon’s blog post also called for concurrent assistance from consumer insurance regulators “around a world” to support a existent efforts to challenge opposite “bad actors”, aka “those who have purchased reviews and a use providers who supposing them”.

The association also told us it has won “dozens” of injunctions opposite providers of feign reviews opposite Europe — adding that it won’t bashful divided from holding authorised action. (It noted, for example, a lawsuit it filed on Jun 9 with a London Commercial Court against a owners of a websites, AMZ Tigers and TesterJob — seeking a prohibitory claim and damages.)

In light of a CMA’s examination being non-stop now, Amazon’s blog post job for regulatory assistance to support lawsuit opposite purveyors of feign reviews looks like a pre-emptive defence to a CMA to pivot a gawk behind onto Facebook’s marketplace — and check behind in on how a trade in feign reviews is looking over there.

Facebook takes down 16,000 groups trade feign reviews after another poke by UK’s CMA

We reached out to a CMA to ask either a examination into Amazon and Google will puncture into a purpose that examination trade groups hosted elsewhere, such as on amicable media platforms, might play in exacerbating a issue.

The regulator declined to criticism on this indicate — yet we know a movement into Amazon and Google is a apart investigation.

In terms of what could occur if, following a investigation, a CMA considers that a firms have damaged UK consumer insurance law it has a operation of coercion powers — that could embody securing grave commitments from them to change a approach they understanding with feign reviews or sharpening to justice movement if needed.

However, for now, it has not reached a perspective on either Amazon and Google have damaged a law.

The CMA has been increasingly active in controlling Big Tech as it dials adult courtesy on digital markets to ready for designed UK reforms to foe law that demeanour set to chaperon in an ex ante regime for traffic with competition-denting height power.

The watchdog has a series of other open investigations into Big Tech — including into Google’s designed deprecation of tracking cookies. It also recently instituted a marketplace investigate into Apple and Google’s prevalence of a mobile ecosystem.

Given a watchdog’s concentration on vital platforms — as good as a prolonged station seductiveness in feign reviews — it’s engaging to assume either iOS builder Apple might not face some UK inspection on this issue.

Concerns have also been lifted over feign ratings and reviews on a App Store.

Earlier this year, for example, iOS app developer, Kosta Eleftheriou, filed fit opposite Apple — alleging it enticed developers to build apps by claiming a App Store is a protected and infallible place yet that it doesn’t strengthen legitimate developers opposite scammers profiting from their tough work.

The CMA already has an open examination into Apple’s App Store. So it will be profitable tighten courtesy to aspects of a store, observant behind in Mar that it would be questioning either Apple imposes astray or anti-competitive terms on developers — that afterwards eventually outcome in users carrying reduction choice or profitable aloft prices for apps and add-ons.

For now, though, a watchdog’s courtesy toward a feign reviews emanate has been publicly focused elsewhere.

This news was updated with additional context 

Apple downplays complaints about App Store scams in antitrust hearing

Apple urged to base out rating scams as developer highlights nauseous cost of coercion failure

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