Facebook and eBay urged by watchdog to stop sales of fake reviews

Regulator finds ‘troubling evidence that there is a thriving marketplace for fake and misleading online reviews’

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Friday 21 June 2019 16:54
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Writing or commissioning fake or incentivised reviews is in breach of consumer law and can lead to criminal action
Writing or commissioning fake or incentivised reviews is in breach of consumer law and can lead to criminal action

Facebook and eBay have been urged to tackle sales of fake reviews through their sites, after the competition watchdog found evidence of a “thriving marketplace” for them.

Web searches by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) discovered more than 100 eBay listings and 26 Facebook listings offering fake reviews.

There is “troubling evidence that there is a thriving marketplace for fake and misleading online reviews”, the regulator said.

Caroline Normand, director of advocacy at consumer group Which?, warned that the situation was getting worse and called for urgent action to tackle the practice.

“Writing or commissioning fake or incentivised reviews is in breach of consumer law and can lead to criminal action for the individuals responsible.

“Online platforms that facilitate the trade of fake reviews also 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.”

With around three-quarters of online shoppers thought to rely on reviews when making a purchase, fake testimonials are likely to influence billions of pounds of transactions.

Both Facebook and eBay have indicated that they are willing to cooperate with the CMA.

An eBay spokesperson said: “We have zero tolerance for fake or misleading reviews.

“We have informed the CMA that all of the sellers they identified have been suspended.

“The listings have been removed. Listings such as these are strictly against our policy on illegal activity and we will act where our rules are broken.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “Fraudulent activity is not allowed on Facebook, including the trading of fake reviews.

“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.

“We know there is more to do, which is why we’ve tripled the size of our safety and security team to 30,000 and continue to invest in technology to help proactively prevent abuse of our platform.”

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