Amazon and Google are under investigation in the UK for fake reviews

LONDON — The UK’s competition regulator launched Friday a formal investigation into Amazon and Google due to concerns that they have not done enough to combat fake reviews.

Andrea Coscelli (chief executive of the CMA) stated in a statement that “we are investigating concerns about Amazon and Google not being doing enough to prevent/remove fake reviews to protect customers, honest businesses.”

“Tech platforms must take responsibility for their actions and we are ready to step in if they fail to do so.”

E-commerce has been plagued by misleading consumer reviews. Amazon is an ideal target for companies looking to promote their products online using positive, fake reviews. The company contacted social media companies last month to help remove dishonest reviews.

In May 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority launched an initial investigation into fake reviews. It had already gotten Facebook to ban several accounts and groups that traded fake reviews earlier in the year.

In April, the CMA announced that Facebook had removed thousands of groups dealing in misleading and false reviews. It also made changes to its systems in order to detect, remove, and prevent such content from appearing on its platforms.

CMA focused Friday’s attention on Amazon and Google. It stated that it would investigate whether the companies had done enough to remove fake reviews. It will also investigate whether reviewers are penalized or if firms punish them for posting misleading scores.

The watchdog said it was concerned that Amazon’s systems were failing to stop sellers from manipulating product listings. This includes merchants using positive reviews from other products.

Although the CMA has not yet determined whether Amazon or Google have violated the law at this point, it stated that it would take enforcement action (including taking the companies to court if necessary) if the companies are found in violation of consumer protection laws.

Amazon stated that it has “significant resources” for preventing incentivized or fake reviews.

CNBC spoke with a spokesperson for the company, who said that they work hard to ensure reviews accurately reflect customers’ experiences with products.

“We will continue supporting the CMA in its inquiries and we note that its confirmation has not found anything against our business.”

Google stated that the company’s policies must “clearly state reviews should be based upon real experiences.”

Daily Reuters spoke with a spokesperson who said that “When we discover policy violations, we act — from removing abusive material to disabling account users,”

“We look forward to sharing more information with the CMA about how our industry-leading technology works and how review teams help users find relevant and helpful information on Google.”

This is the latest in a series of investigations into digital giants. Three days ago, the European Union opened another antitrust investigation into Google to see if the search giant favors its own online display advertising technology services.

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The CMA of Britain is looking to play a greater role in examining major U.S. technology firms following Brexit. The government has given the watchdog the task of setting up a new Digital Markets Unit in order to regulate competition in the U.K. internet market.