Writing, hosting and paying for fake reviews could soon be illegal in the UK

Ecommerce

Fake reviews could soon be made illegal in the UK and websites which host them could face huge fines as part of a new government crackdown.

The government has unveiled new proposals to make it illegal to write, pay for, or host fake online reviews in the UK.

Under the new proposals the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) would be given powers to fine an online retailer up to 10 per cent of their annual revenues for featuring false reviews which encourage a consumer to spend more than they want to.

It comes amid reports that online scams have skyrocketed 69 per cent since the start of the pandemic, while estimates suggest suspicious reviews influence £23 billion of purchases in Britain every year.

Amazon and Google are both currently under investigation by the CMA over the prevalence of fake reviews on their platforms, but both these tech giants and regulators have struggled to stamp out the illicit industry.

READ MORE: Amazon accused of “bullying” as it gets fake review spotting app removed from Apple store

However making the practice illegal and giving the CMA new powers to prosecute businesses and individual perpetrators directly, rather than going through court, could represent a major milestone in the ongoing battle against fake reviews.

Consumer minister Paul Scully said that the government will “make sure that (the CMA are) adequately resourced in the spending review that’s coming up.”

He added that online giant’s like Amazon, Google and Facebook need to do more to help tackle the practice on their platforms.

“We have to have a drive that these online companies are showing they’re responsible for consumers as well. So if there is more work for them to do, there is more work for them to do”.

It comes after Amazon successfully got Fakespot, a popular app which analyses Amazon product reviews and flags those likely to be fake or generated by a bot, removed by from the Apple App Store last week.

Amazon reported the app to Apple for investigation over accusations it provided customers with misleading information, broke its app store rules and posed a potential security risk.

It also accused Fakespot of misleading customers by placing its own code into Amazon’s website to display its ratings, which give reviews a grade between A and F depending on how credible they are.

Amazon is currently under investigation in the UK over the prevalence of fake reviews on its platform, while both the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and consumer watchdog Which? have repeatedly demanded more action from the retail giant to stamp out the practice.

Last month, Amazon, which now sees over 50 per cent of all items sold on its platform come from third party sellers, called on social media giants to take greater responsibility for fake reviews which are largely facilitated on their platforms.

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