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Online platforms need to get tough on fake review factories

Two Which? investigations have found fake reviews are still ripe on Facebook and an issue on Twitter.  These platforms must take responsibility for their users’ safety.

Here at Which?, we continue to be fed up with fake reviews

In the latest in our investigations into online platforms, we’re disappointed to have found that not only are the practices of trading free items for fake reviews continuing, assurances of a crack down on this activity by some of the tech giants don’t appear to have had an effect. 

Fake review factories

Late last year, a Which? investigation uncovered 18 Facebook fake review groups with more than 200,000 members between them. These groups target Facebook users by offering free refunds for Amazon products in exchange for five-star reviews.  

Within minutes of joining these groups, our investigators were offered hundreds of free Amazon items in exchange for reviews – everything from hats and gloves to headphones and webcams.  

Read more: How Facebook fuels Amazon’s fake reviews

In a separate investigation, we found that fake review issues were also rife on Twitter. Using a fake Twitter profile to pose as a potential Amazon product reviewer, our investigators discovered dozens of review agents, and received requests for reviews on thousands of products and brands.  

Read more: Thousands of Amazon sellers using Twitter to gain fake or incentivised reviews

Take responsibility for user safety

It’s vital that consumers can trust the reviews they read. According to research from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), as much as £23 billion each year of consumer spending is influenced by online reviews. What’s more, trading, or facilitating the trading of, fake reviews, is a practice which is likely to be in breach of consumer law.   

It is especially disappointing to see these groups continuing to exist.  Some of the fake review groups our investigators found on Facebook have been operating since as far back as 2011 and 2014.   

Despite repeated commitments to the CMA in January 2020 and again in April 2021 to crack down on this type of activity on its platforms, these groups still exist.  

Tech giants need to take responsibility for their users safety, and live the commitments they make.  Facebook must now explain why this fake review activity appears to continue, and the CMA must challenge the company to demonstrate the actions it is taking are effective.   

The regulator should also consider investigating Twitter over incentivised and fake reviews. 

The government too should play its part. Having previously proposed measures for tackling fake reviews as part of its consumer and competition reforms, it should bring forward legislation to address these practices as soon as possible. 

Do you agree with our call? Let us know in the comments below, and sign our petition calling on tech giants to take responsibility for their users’ safety.

Watch out for fake reviews 

Here are some tips for avoiding fake reviews: 

⭐ Read a mix of reviews, not just the top ones.

⭐ Check the most recent ratings, not just the top reviews.

⭐ Look for patterns. If a lot of positive reviews are posted at the same time, or if they use unnatural or overly celebratory language, you should be wary.

⭐ Look for signs of incentivisation, for example users mentioning being offered a gift card in their review, or sharing a large amount of photos of a product.

Read our full guide for spotting fake reviews

Have you ever taken part in a fake or incentivised reviews group on a social media platform?
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Have you taken part in a fake review group? We’d like to hear your experience – feel free to share in the comments below, or if you’d rather not post publicly you can contact us via our webform. 

Comments

From Camilla’s introduction: “The government too should play its part. Having previously proposed measures for tackling fake reviews as part of its consumer and competition reforms, it should bring forward legislation to address these practices as soon as possible.”

I agree. We have what is probably and international problem and the government must work together with other governments to tackle it.

In the meantime, perhaps we should all learn to ignore reviews, or at least ignore the very positive ones which are most likely to be faked. Three star reviews can give useful information about the advantages and disadvantages of a product and with luck the one star reviews may even alert you to dangerous products.

Perhaps we should start with the fake brands.

There was a time when all brands were genuine and you knew what you were buying and the reputation of the brand.

Now a single product can be branded with many fake names along with many glowing fake reviews and sold by many equally fake sellers who switch name before they get to their tax-paying threshold. If brand XYZ product gets too many bad reviews, it will reappear as brand XZY.

Is it feasible for all brands to be registered and authorised to sell before they can be sold in the UK? Or at least products that can be dangerous such as electrical items?

I have bought 2 kettles from well-known brands from Amazon that were very likely fake. If all faulty products were returned to the genuine brand, it would be up to them to track down fakes and put a stop to them.

We could even go a step further and return all end-of-life products to their brands so they are responsible for recycling them.

Yet another step – if more than 80% of a product is not recyclable, then fine them.

OK, so all this might be wishful thinking, but something needs to be done so we can have faith that what we buy is genuine and safe and also that less ends up in land-fill.

Less fake products would also mean less fake reviews.

I support the call for action even though I am not affected because I don’t use social media and I take no notice of reviews on marketplace websites. I never provide reviews either.

The marketplaces don’t actually know what is being sold through their channels unless they physically fulfil the purchases, and even then do they actually open the box to check that what the seller described and what the customer ordered is what the customer really gets in every respect? It goes back to the perennial problem of digital marketplace responsibility which is virtually non-existent and has no legal framework.

Which? rightly calls on the government to take measures to act against this problem, but it doesn’t say what those measures should consist of . . . or perhaps it doesn’t know what is practical. My view is that, as a minimum, the product should be withdrawn from the marketplace and any stocks in the UK should be confiscated. I would also like to see the seller banned from the marketplace for at least one year and that any other products exposed for sale on the marketplace by the same or a related seller removed. I recognise the potential difficulties with identifying the review groups and the traders who are ‘benefitting’ from such behaviour, and the possibility that they can re-emerge, but these marketplaces, and the social media sites that feed off them, are hosted by multi-billion dollar corporations with some of the most advanced tech processes on the planet so let’s not be fooled by that excuse. If necessary it should be made illegal for foreign sellers from the areas concerned to be prohibited from marketing their products in the UK via any on-line channel and ordered that all their products must be distributed and sold by registered UK companies operating from verifiable physical premises.

Fake reviews are not just likely to be a breach of UK consumer law, as Which? points out, but are a violation of fair trading which interferes with and threatens the trade of legitimate businesses struggling to compete in a corrupted market.

I prefer to buy goods from established shops. If that’s not possible I buy from retailers that are either based in the UK or have a UK office. John makes a good point about the damage being done to legitimate businesses, which pay the costs of ensuring that what we buy is likely to be safe even if it is imported.

I agree. Check out the seller first. Someone earlier posted a complaint about lamps that were poor quality bought online. Had they looked at reviews they would have found 92% said don’t buy from them. We do need to exercise some discretion.

This is the story about the lamp: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2022/01/online-shop-litfad-sold-me-a-dangerous-faulty-lamp-and-it-wont-refund-me-what-can-i-do/

I looked at the company’s website at the time and it’s foreign and without contact details other than for the website operator.

I make a point of buying from companies based in the UK or with a UK office. If something goes wrong I stand a chance of sorting out the problem. I once made a mistake of buying a product from Pixmania, then part of the Dixons Retail Group, about a pricing issue. I had not appreciated that they were based in France or the Netherlands and after a couple of unhelpful email communications and an expensive overseas call I abandoned my attempts and lost my expected discount. I now routinely check contact details for companies and if there is no UK office shown on the website I go somewhere else.

Buying from Facebook or Amazon? Never in a million years. Neither of them could give a flying fig about their customers. They allow fake adverts, fake goods, fake reviews. It’s impossible to buy British as the majority of the goods are from the Far East. The prices are cheaper because they’re fake, seconds or simply crap.

David R says:
14 January 2022

the problem is rife. 50k products on amazon? more like 50% of products online. and not just amazon.

it is not just via FB and twitter. product arrives with maybe a card offering a female or a free sample in return for a review. no digital footprint at all for the latter!

You don’t have to look very far on Amazon to find a ‘dodgy electrical product.’

This one on Amazon is recommended as the safest plug extension tower:

But when you look at the product images on the Aupro Tower, it is shown using the wrong plugs for the unit. DOH !!!

[edited]

You can make up your own mind whether this is a quality product by reading the 1* reviews.

[edited]

It is a waste of time getting fake reviews removed from these types of products. There are thousands of them with many fake names so get rid of them, and it will get rid of many fake reviews.

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to remove defamatory content. We may remove content that may be libelous, defamatory, or otherwise false or misleading. For more information see the Community Guidelines

@alfa – I mentioned below that I thought the photo with the wrong plugs had been Photoshopped. Looking closer I see that the top two plugs are identical. They are also aligned differently with the sockets they are supposed to be plugged in to, which would not be possible if they were real.

I had assumed that the top two sockets on the left hand side were for two-pin plugs making the tower effectively a converter and therefore quite a useful piece of apparatus [if it was electrically safe in all respects]. Somebody buying it on that basis and then finding it was only useful for standard UK three-pin plugs would would be disappointed and probably not able to get a satisfactory remedy from the supplier even under the ‘not as described’ provisions of the Consumer Rights Act.

If marketplaces are not in a position to test or check the products they bring to market they could at least scrutinise the advertising material; most of it for this type of product is extremely bad and potentially misleading or deceptive.

If you look at the middle socket, part of the rectangular recess for an Earth pin is clearly visible, matching others in the photo. The edge of a similar recess can just be seen next to the bottom plug. Creating images that don’t exist is extremely easy in Photoshop and other software and does not take much expertise. The person who created this photo was careless and did not put one of the plugs in the right place.

Amazon and eBay usually provide photos that show the plugs fitted to electrical goods these days, presumably because of the number of complaints about products supplied with the wrong plug.

We don’t want products that are wrongly described but it’s worse if they are dangerous. We need legislation.

They could be photoshopped, glued on or different pins pushed in the holes. All the power sockets are intended for standard UK plugs.

The point I was making was this was advertised as the safest product, but how can it be when it is not even advertised correctly?

I would like to see a ban on doctoring of images because it is misrepresentation. Recall the early attempts where right-hand drive models of cars were created by flipping images of LHD models and an inept computer user forgot about the badge or model name being reversed.

I’d like to see advice from Which? to avoid buying from online marketplaces rather than just adding to the list of dangerous goods they sell.

First, I would like to see it made much clearer when a product is supplied from a “market place” and that the host – Amazon et al – cannot guarantee the product’s authenticity and safety and take no responsibility for it.

I have bought a few things by this route successfully, but nothing that would pose potential harm. Discrimination and common sense is needed.

I presume this product has been removed, Alfa, because the link does not turn it up. I looked under AUOPRO on Amazon and found a photo of a different products with the same three plugs. I guess it’s a Photoshopped photo, maybe because UK plugs were not available in the country of manufacture. I’ve seen plenty of examples of Photoshopping on online marketplaces.

I have noticed that Amazon shows the number of one and two star reviews but the reviews are not always available to read. These are the most important ones since they can warn of dangerous products.

Which link wavechange? They are all working for me. You have to scroll down the page to ‘Recommended article’ to see the first image, I just added the red ring around ‘Safest Tower’.

I have just noticed I spelt Auopro as Aupro, but the link still works!

I can’t imagine any Chinese manufacturer would have a shortage of UK plugs.

Got it, Alfa. I was assuming I would find the photo in your link about a dodgy electrical product. I did find the photo under AUOPRO and it’s either the same as your second link.

Some of the tower extension sockets show photos with a spiral of cable with a mains plug at the top. That’s unlikely and probably a Photoshop creation.

I investigated tower extension leads some time ago. Very often you find the main images are different so they appear to be different products, but when you look at the additional photos you will find the same image is used on those different products.

Yes, I remember our discussions earlier. Selling the same or very similar products under different brand names has been going on for a very long time. I remember a technology writer Barry Fox explaining the practice in electronics magazines, around 1970. In these days it was done by well known companies and it encouraged some people to pay more for a better respected name. Nowadays its usually referred to as badge engineering and there are usually minor differences because if products were identical people would get to know via websites and social media.

Now, as you have pointed out, the same product can be sold under different names for financial reasons.

I remember coming across these socket towers a couple of years ago when trying to find a replacement multi-socket extension lead for my office. I wanted one with an ON indicator lamp for each socket but one that was not too bright [I bought a four gang strip with blue LED lamps which has been very good]. Just reading the fanciful and badly translated product descriptions for some of the multitude of socket towers was enough to convince me that these products were dodgy. I think having twelve outlets on one unit is asking for trouble. I daresay they sell well though.

Which? ran an article a couple of years ago on Shenzhen industries, I think it was, where a product developed passed through various other businesses before hitting the market in slightly different guises. Nov 2019 mag I think.

Badge engineering has gone on for years. Cars in the 50s were a good example.

Quite so. BMC made four marques of the Mini — Austin, Morris, Riley, and Wolseley each with a different badge and minor detail variations in the radiator grilles and trim. They were also given different names [Seven, Minor, Elf, and Hornet respectively]. Further variants emerged over time, including an MG-badged model, all with the same basic body shape. “Badge engineering” was really a euphemism for status discrimination which was what it was all about.

Remember the Wolseley4/44, Riley Pathfinder and MG Magnette in the ‘50s under BMC? Common bodies and chassis.

It is easy to say the government should legislate against fake reviews but not so easy, I suspect, to stop them. Maybe Which? could support their demand with proposals?

Here is an example of a dangerous product that has been on the Amazon website for months. I have mentioned it before:

The sleeving on the Earth pin could prevent connection with the contact in the socket. Amazon reviews can be very useful in identifying a problem and one reviewer found that the lead failed a PAT test, which means that it could electrocute if a fault developed in the product it was used with:

You may have to zoom in to read that.

At the time of writing the product can be found at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/TRD-Kettle-Power-monitor-printers-Black/dp/B08BJB2Q7K/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=kettle%2Blead&qid=1634547059&qsid=262-1881021-1254061&sr=8-4&sres=B002CZQ3G6%2CB08BJB2Q7K%2CB002DWA8IW%2CB071P7HYT3%2CB00A4ARUYA%2CB09DXG79VQ%2CB0058GXEZ4%2CB08P2TFRBR%2CB01MV29JD1%2CB087LZYXMT%2CB01DDI3YEY%2CB07622B8V8%2CB07F2JVPQS%2CB00407YEE2%2CB08FJFCP38%2CB00OY6D1DE&srpt=POWER_CORD&th=1

The majority of the 496 reviewers gave this product a five star rating. Most of the obviously dangerous electrical products I have seen online have had a good rating. Sadly you can rarely see if a product is dangerous just by looking at photos but the one star reviews can sometimes be useful.

When I tried to report a similar product my local Trading Standards was not interested if I have not bought a product. Maybe Which? could investigate. Does anyone here support this suggestion?

What about the BMC Vanden Plas?

I can’t see to much wrong with selling the same basic car design under different brand names. They were not identical products, but had different levels of trim. The Vanden Plas 1300 I used to clean to earn pocket money had pull down picnic tables in the back.

Bosch, Neff and Siemens appliances are all the same under the covers. It’s not too hard to decipher the model numbers.

The Vanden Plas was a de luxe version of the 1960’s Austin A60 Cambridge and Morris Oxford models with Pinifarina styling, and I think there were Riley, Wolseley and MG variants as well.

Ford pressed the early Anglia and Escort small saloons from the same moulds and the same bodyshell was largely used for the Esquire estate version.

Vauxhall also had a family of saloons in the 1950’s with similar bodies [with Americanised jelly-mould styling] named Cresta, Velox and Wyvern in ascending order of specification; the Wyvern was quite a superior and much-admired motor with superb suspension.

There was a Vanden Plas Mini as well. As traditional coach builders, they could take more or less any model, gut it, give it a custom paint job and reline the interior, so more like Overfinch who do the same with Land Rovers. It was not a standard variant straight off the production lines to my knowledge.

Given the uncomfortable ride and mechanics of the original Mini design, it seemed a rather pointless modification, unless you wanted to show off your credentials as a minor Royal or film star.

I had an A60 back in the distant past. There were Riley MG Magnet and Wolseley versions which, apart from the Riley were standard cars with better trim than the Austin and Morris versions. I believe the Riley had twin carburettors and a few extra BHP. Bigger Austins -A90 and later A110 were unique and didn’t have any supporting cast in other marques. These were six cylinder cars. I don’t remember the Vanden Plas name being introduced until smaller 1100 and 1300 cars replaced the old A60’s with their sideways engines. The old Farina 110s then became Vanden Plas and one had a Rolls Royce Engine, but only 4 litres.
Fords Popular, Anglia and Prefect had to compete and their six volt systems, vacuum wipers and two cross springs and side valve engines were replaced in the newer models. These continued with the three speed box, where one revved hard in second and struggled in to top gear. While the Ford Consul, (4 cylinder) Zephyr and Zodiac already had 12 volt batteries, they kept the three speed box -as did Vauxhall. The Consul also had vacuum wipers for a while. Eventually at the beginning of the 1960s the New Ford Anglia came out to compete with the Mini, the A40 and Vauxhall Viva. Ford had a four speed box for the first time. It was bigger than the Mini and sold in millions.

There is a difference between rebranded re-utilised products from well known established brands and the products that are produced brandless and will appear on marketplaces with a multitude of fake names – all with an unknown source.

Sage appliances are rebranded Breville (Australia), and as Em says, Bosch Neff and Siemens are basically the same.

I have noticed Chinese sellers are now using brand names and creating websites with fake goods that although made up, will sound familiar to us. Premierstuffuk is one I just made up but you get the drift.

I believe at least one company has now made themselves a household name by putting their brand name on these types of unbranded goods and possibly on older models where they might get sole distribution rights. They have at least created a business based in the UK so can take responsibility for these products, but how can electrical products be guaranteed as safe and where do you draw the line?

As long as the price is right and there are some positive reviews people will buy them.

Some will spend hundreds of pounds and then buy an unbranded or counterfeit charger with good reviews that could be fake. If it fails it could wreck their shiny new phone or cause a fire.

Alfa, we did divert from the current rebranding discussion when someone raised badge engineering. Those who remembered the real Riley, Wolseley, MG and Vanden Plas might well have been enticed into thinking they were buying those qualities whereas, in fact, they were just buying BMC or BL.

The manufacture of anonymous products rebadged with house names, like tvs, white goods, is commonplace, as is the perpetuation of brand names that have been sold, retaining their identity but not their credentials. Shenzhen industry is just a version of that.

The question asked is how can electrical products be guaranteed as safe. All electrical products put up for sale in the UK are covered by safety regulations for them to be legally sold. This does not guarantee those actually sold are safe because the seller may have evaded the checks necessary to demonstrate compliance. If the seller is outside our jurisdiction then we are rather stuck, but if the seller is UK based then they can, and should, be prosecuted and penalised for breaking the law.

Policing the market and taking action when necessary should be our safeguards. That requires investment in people and resources and if we are not prepared to do that then we will continue to be exposed to harm.

Or in the case of power tools, if they are the right colour. Some people will choose an unbranded chainsaw because it is orange (Stihl), or a power tool as long as it is green and red (Bosch domestic).

I agree. We have to be very wary of product mimicry.

Again, as with fake reviews, it is a corruption of fair trading: good manufacturers spend years and fortunes developing a brand identity and then some backstreet outfit in outer wuhu comes along with a lousy product and piggybacks on their reputation. Legal action for ‘passing off’ is impossible or prohibitively complex and, anyway, the counterfeiter just folds up and re-emerges under another guise.

At present I feel reasonably safe buying known brands from retailers with UK shops or at least a UK office.

Reputable brand names have been sold off in the past and no longer necessarily live up to their memories. Companies change hands, or people change the existing culture, that can affect the way a brand performs. We have to be very wary of what we buy and where from so proper reviews, from reputable organisations like Which?, are very important to keep us informed of what is, and is not, worth buying. I don’t think Which? exploit this appeal sufficiently in marketing themselves.

Many years ago one son holidayed in Tenerife (I think it was) and, a generous lad, brought his sister and I a portable CD player each, battery operated with in-ear phones, back as presents. They were marked Panasoanic. They played remarkably well and proved durable. I was never sure whether he knew they were fake but I know they were a bargain price, as that was, and still is, in his nature. He is very savvy now.

Even “reputable” UK retailers have been found selling unsafe products. They have a duty to follow due diligence as they are legally responsible for what they sell. Clearly there is insufficient concern to ensure they all put in that effort, probably because enforcement is so lacking.

The key, in my view, to ensure we buy safe products is for those who transgress to be heavily penalised, and know that being found out is likely. That means a properly resourced Trading Standards organisation and publicised transgressions.

I have given an example of a dangerous product above the comments about vintage cars, Malcolm. This has been on sale for months and I tried to report a similar dangerous product several years ago.

I don’t believe we are anywhere near dealing with the problem of dangerous goods. Even if we had an effective Trading Standards action could only be taken after a product had been sold and the problem identified by which time the product could be in hundreds or thousands of homes. We need a new approach that is fit for the purpose now that so much is bought online and there are a huge number of dangerous and counterfeit products on sale and in homes.

Ask yourself which organisations are responsible for allowing/assisting/profiting from the most dangerous goods that enter the UK market and a solution to much of the problem might become apparent.

If the problems of unsafe goods sold online and fake reviews are to be tackled effectively it will take international cooperation between governments.

Ideally, yes, but not necessarily. Europe and the USA do not seem to be making progress. Now we are free of EU legislation I see no reason why we cannot construct UK legislation that makes those who in the UK operate market places, from which they benefit financially other than through simple advertising, responsible for the products they put onto the market via ”fulfilment” or what other term they choose. Other UK distributors and retailers are accountable.

I have yet to see evidence of the UK taking much action though have recently seen the new UKCA logo on a product. If the UK can force the large online marketplaces to take responsibility for the products that they host on behalf on marketplace traders, why are we not being informed? I had assumed that legislation would be needed.

For the time being I will continue to believe that we will have more influence on the operators of online marketplaces if our government works with other European governments.

It is about legislation, not influence.

Until we have legislation in place, applying pressure seems the best option. Amazon is good at removing dangerous and counterfeit when Which? and other organisations report problems and there are some clear rules for marketplace traders but they are obviously not policing what is offered for sale.

I don’t have a problem with fake reviews because I have so little trust in marketing. I wish that legitimate companies were pushing more for action against fake advertising since they will be losing sales.

There is no sign that Amazon, et al, respond to pressure. When Which? and others report dangerous products Amazon have little choice but to remove them from sale (until they assist another source to sell the same product). And by then it is too late; as I think you said above, thousands may be already out with unsuspecting customers.

So Amazon seems no good at preventing dangerous products passing through their hands until someone else has to tell them. They need to do their own checks before they sell them, not just react when found out. That would show responsibility. Legislation seems necessary to make them face up to that responsibility.

Interestingly, that’s not quite accurate. Some time ago I had cause to contact Amazon about a product that was absurdly over-priced and in breach of selling regs. They removed the item immediately from display and didn’t reinstate it. They do listen and take action sometimes.

Sometimes, and after the event when many have been exposed to potential harm, is the problem.

If they were responsible they would check items before they are exposed to public sale, just as other retailers should (although there are still failures). The pressure I was suggesting was to do just this but they appear not to have responded to long-standing pressure.

I don’t know why people are tempted to buy knock-off electrical accessories. And you don’t need reviews to tell you what to buy.

For extension leads and power distribution, look at Brennenstuhl, a reputable German manufacturer with a very wide variety of stylish and functional designs. They even sell empty extension reals, if you have yards of those annoying electric mower cables you don’t know how to store.

Premium Line is made in Germany and other products in China, but you can be sure they are well-designed and tested to the relevant UK or European standards. Go to their dedicated UK website, which shows the entire GB range and jot down the model numbers of interest.

Amazon or Marketplace sellers offer most of the range between them, but prices can vary wildly. Or pop into a branch of TLC who stock a limited range, perferably on a Saturday morning so you don’t annoy the trade sparkies.

Go to the Brennenstuhl DE site (in English) if you want to see the full range. I’ve found a very nice 4 way Schuko/Europlug trailing extension lead with 2 USB sockets for £13.25 at Amazon UK. I’m going to chop the plug to connect it to my UPS, so other family members won’t be tempted to plug in non-essential loads for when the power fails. I can keep my router and DECT phone running for many hours, provided there are no phantom drains on the battery reserve.

Fake reviews are a worldwide problem. Here is an article by CNBC about the problem with fake reviews on Amazon. It’s worth watching the video at the top of the page, but turn on the sound. There is a screen capture of a page on the Which? website early in the video: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/06/amazon-reviews-thousands-are-fake-heres-how-to-spot-them.html

Perhaps we need a different approach such as looking at products that our friends and family own to help us make wise buying choices. With computer peripherals I have bought products that I have been happy using at work, and vice versa.

Thanks for the link wavechange.

Interesting that big brand names have removed themselves from Amazon because they get unfairly treated with fake reviews.

A few months ago I needed new cushions and covers. Feather cushions on one sofa were making me sneeze so they had to go and covers on the other were just worn out. A friend was happy to have all the feather cushions.

Normally I would go to the stores, take a colour swatch and examine them first. Plain colours show every mark and colours on a PC screen are unlikely to look the same as the real thing. But as I had to buy online, to be on the safe side, I decided on grey cord and didn’t want to spend too much as they might not be what I really wanted.

Google ‘grey cord cushion covers’ and it is a mine-field. They were too expensive or out of stock in most of the reputable stores and millions of them at the cheap end. I looked at the cheap ones mostly on marketplaces, but although they had glowing reviews, you could see puckered seams and badly finished items.

In the end I bought a selection of grey shades from Homebase and George at Asda and was pleased with all of them.

And this is the problem with everything now. It doesn’t matter what you want to buy, there’s a good chance the market is flooded and it is now very difficult to find products that are not mass-produced in China riddled with glowing fake reviews.

In the video, small businesses are struggling to compete when they have spent years building a business and gaining honest reviews. Along comes a fake brand and within months have higher fake glowing reviews, prices are undercut until the competition has been quashed and we have less real choice.

I can relate to that, Alfa. As a teenager I developed a feather allergy and switched to using synthetic pillows. Fortunately hotels use synthetic pillows these days and my cushions are synthetic too. Of course synthetics materials are an environmental problem but when I got new cushion covers I kept the padding and opted for covers that would wash.

I’m very reluctant to buy online unless I am familiar with the product. I have seen too many examples of poor quality products that others have bought online.

I agree with you about small businesses and even the larger ones don’t deserve competition from sellers of poor quality and possibly unsafe tat. Although I don’t pay attention to five star reviews I realise that many do, which is why I strongly support tackling fake reviews and misleading marketing.

If you spot any products that are obviously dangerous from reviewers’ comments or photos I would be interested. Perhaps we could work together to persuade Which? to investigate.

I’ll take allergies to the Lobby when I have more time but I had to wash the covers before they are used because of any chemicals that might still be on them. When I bought them I didn’t notice some were dry-clean only but they hand-washed and tumble-dryed OK.

According to one of the 1*reviews for the ‘safest tower’ above, this tower was recalled November 2021. It is still for sale though.

These types of products always have considerably more 5* reviews than 1* and many will be fake, so you never know how bad problems with a product really are. I only looked at that one as I was looking for a dodgy product. Having noticed them before it didn’t take long but I will keep a lookout for any more. Like Em, we look for better quality extension leads and will remember her recommendation for next time.

I’ve just seen the review you have mentioned. It seems mighty strange that Amazon should recall a product and leave it on sale and I wonder if the buyer was commenting on the wrong product. I’ve seen many examples of this where it is obvious that the comments don’t relate to the product. Where reviewers have mentioned that a product is dangerous, don’t you think that Amazon should investigate? Yes there are fake reviews but I doubt that most people would know if a small electrical product was dangerous our counterfeit. I’ve seen plenty of unbranded iPhone chargers that are very convincing replicas and I doubt that they comply with safety standards.

I looked at my Amazon account today and included in their recommendations were one of these tower sockets and an extension lead with non-compliant sockets. 🙁

I was interested in the feather cushion discussion. We have recently replaced the polyester inner pads in four cushions with duck feather and down-filled ones. The synthetic pads made the cushions too plump and unyielding so were not particularly comfortable. The cushions are now thinner, more flexible and without that over-stuffed appearance. I suppose half the cushions in use are for decorative purposes rather than for comfort. We now have four 50×50 cm 100% polyester cushion pads available if anyone wants them and has covers to fit; if there is no demand they will go to a charity shop.

Feather pads certainly make better inners but after 3.5 years, both our John Lewis and House of Fraser ones were shedding small feathers everywhere as the pad covers were not thick enough to retain them. We received a free feather cushion when we bought a rug from one of the furniture sheds – I think it was Furniture Village and it had a much thicker cover.

It’s time synthetic cushion pads and pillows were redesigned with much better quality so they last longer. They soon go flat or lumpy and millions of them must get chucked out every year as nowhere seems to recycle them.

I think you might find charity shops don’t want cushions John.