Amazon and Google face British investigation over fake reviews

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(Image credit: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon and Google are both facing an investigation in the United Kingdom over whether they may have broken the law by not sufficiently cracking down on fake reviews.

The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority announced Friday it's opening a probe into the two companies, which will examine "concerns" that they might have violated consumer protection law "by taking insufficient action to protect shoppers from fake reviews." The regulator previously began a preliminary probe in May 2020, CNN reports.

"Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations," CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said. "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."

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The CMA also said that it's concerned Amazon has been failing to prevent sellers from manipulating product listings, such as by "opting positive reviews from other products." The regulator hasn't come to a conclusion over whether Amazon and Google violated the law. But it noted that should this conclusion be reached, it could take enforcement action like requiring the companies to change how they handle fake reviews "or escalating to court action if needed." Previously, Facebook and eBay both committed to combating fake reviews after the CMA's concerns, The Wall Street Journal notes.

"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 Friday.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNN that it devotes "significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store," while Google said that its "strict policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take action." Both companies said they'll cooperate with the probe.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.