FACEBOOK and eBay have been told by the competitions watchdog to crack down on illegal “fake and misleading” reviews.
The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) found over 100 eBay listings offering fake reviews for sale between November and June.
2 The watchdog has found hundreds of eBay listings offering fake reviews for saleCredit: Alamy
During the same time period, it also came across 26 Facebook groups where people offered to write fake reviews or where businesses recruited people to write them on popular shopping and review sites.
Estimates show that over 75 per cent of internet users in the UK check online reviews when choosing what to buy, meaning billions of pounds is influenced by reviews every year, the CMA added.
But not only does fake and misleading reviews lead to people making poor choices and buying the wrong products, it is also illegal under consumer laws.
The watchdog added that it’s not alleging that Facebook or eBay are intentionally allowing this content to appear on their websites, but it called for an urgent review.
The Sun has asked the CMA what it would do if the situation doesn’t improve, and whether it’d hit eBay and Facebook with fines, but we haven’t yet heard back.
2 The CMA also found 26 Facebook groups where people offered to write reviewsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “Fake reviews mean that people might make the wrong choice and end up with a product or service that’s not right for them.
“We want Facebook and eBay to conduct an urgent review of their sites to prevent fake and misleading online reviews from being bought and sold.”
Caroline Normand, Which? director of advocacy, said: “Online platforms that facilitate the trade of fake reviews have to take this matter seriously and move past the inefficient whack-a-mole approach of only removing fake reviews and groups after they spring up.
“If they fail to put the systems and rules in place to address the problem, or these groups simply appear elsewhere, the CMA must urgently consider what action is needed to stamp out the scourge of fake reviews.”
Both eBay and Facebook said fake and misleading reviews aren’t allowed on their sites.
A spokesperson for eBay added that it will work closely with the CMA to review its findings.
While a spokesperson for Facebook added: “We have removed 24 of the 26 groups and pages that the CMA reported to us yesterday and had already removed a number of them prior to the CMA flagging them to us.”
How to avoid fake reviewsHERE are some tips from Which? on how to avoid fake reviews.
Be careful when you shop for brands you don’t know: Scrutinise customer reviews even more carefully if you’re looking to buy a brand you don’t recognise, as research has found they are more likely to be affected by fake reviews
Be suspicious of large numbers of reviews: If you see hundreds or even thousands of reviews – be suspicious, especially if they are largely positive
Look for repetition: If you see the same review titles, repetitive phrases or the same reviewer name appear more than once, it’s likely that it has been targeted by fake reviews
Check if the review is unverified or verified: Reviews marked as “verified” are those that Amazon can confirm were purchased at its website, meaning “unverified” reviews could’ve been written by someone who hasn’t even bought the product
Look at the dates: If large numbers of reviews were posted on the same day, or in a short period of time, it’s likely that they are fake
Check seller profiles: You should be wary of things such as foreign seller locations, strange business names, a lack of contact details, and of course, negative reviews of the seller
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In February, hotel booking sites including Hotels.com, Booking.com and Expedia vowed to end “rip-off” sales tactics after probe.
But last month, some were found to still con customers into booking hotels with fake discounts and pressure tactics.
In January, a hotel was accused of faking top ratings after “terrible” reviews on TripAdvisor.
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