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Why we’ve had enough of fake reviews

Spotted a review that doesn’t look quite right? Does that product’s five-star rating just not stack up? Sign our petition to put a stop to fake reviews.

Earlier this year, we found sellers on online marketplaces and platforms confusing people by posting fake reviews to distort opinion about products and spread misinformation.

Despite telling marketplaces and platforms that there was a problem, it shows no signs of slowing down.

Well, we’ve had enough. Today, we’ve set up a petition calling for action on fake reviews.

We’ve found through several investigations that sellers on online marketplaces such as Amazon are able cheat the system by overloading product listings with fake reviews.

This is the latest in a series of investigations that we have ongoing to uncover the scale of the problem.

The impact on spending

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimated that in 2015, around £23 billion of spending was the result of people reading reviews.

With the explosive growth of e-commerce in the last 4 years, it’s now estimated that figure is around £38 billion.

From our analysis and research, of those who believe they received a product of an inferior quality than they were expecting, the spend impacted by fake reviews is around £1.5 billion.

That is a huge amount of consumer spending that is hanging on information that might not be true, genuine or is at the very least outright distorted to present a false impression.

Taking action

Thankfully, the regulator has recognised that there is a problem, too. The CMA recently launched a programme of work aimed at tackling fake and misleading reviews.

As a first step, they told Facebook and eBay to cut them off at the source and remove groups and listings that were encouraging the sale and trade of fake reviews.

Facebook told us it had removed the groups we reported to it, while Amazon said that it invests significant resources to protect the integrity of its reviews.

We think more needs to be done. Online platforms know that this is a problem, but they’re not taking enough proactive steps to ensure that consumers are accessing relevant, correct information about the products they are viewing on their platforms.

We’ve been working undercover for the last year, finding out about what’s happening and how sellers are managing to post these reviews.

A lot of people don’t know that fake reviews exist – these are the people who are most at risk

We want you to join us and support the first steps of our work to stamp out fake reviews.

Have you ever been asked to write a fake review? How many do you think you’ve spotted? Let us know, and support our campaign.

Comments
Catherine Sengupta says:
26 July 2019

How do you report to Amazon that you are still waiting for a refund of £140?
It shows in my Amazon status that I had been refunded but that is not the case and I cannot find a way to communicate with them that doesn’t involve jumping through endless hoops.

Use the online chat facility on their website- someone will phone you instantly -things get sorted that way. I’ve always either emailed customer services following the site link, or entered into Chat, to resolve issues.

Catherine:

This link will take you directly to their contact page.

It’s not just the fake reviews, it’s how difficult or impossible it is to leave a negative review. For example I recently bought an item on eBay – with a two year warranty – for my car. It exploded after about four hours use leaving me with no rear suspension. I took pictures and got in contact with the seller who offered a replacement. I said OK if this was an isolated incident and they could assure me it had not happened before and was just bad luck, eventually they came back saying it HAD happened before and to return the item for refund (which I have done and am still awaiting refund) . The opportunity to leave feedback on eBay has disappeared along with the purchase details. I would have left a negative review but there is now no possibility. As it has happened before I guess others have had the same experience but also been unable to leave neg feedback. EBay also no longer allows you to amend feedback, so I now don’t leave it until I have had the chance to test items over a period of time but too many people seem to immediately leave feedback so they can never report negatives. You have to wait a period anyway before you are allowed to leave negative feedback.

Moving on to the main review sites, most only allow reviews from actual purchasers, so – for example – Boilerjuice has good reviews despite being one of the most expensive ways of buying heating oil, presumably for people to use them they must think they are getting a good deal, hence good reviews. I always do the rounds before ordering my oil and Boilerjuice has NEVER been near the best price I have obtained in the many years they have been in business.

Agree with Steve’s comment about how difficult it is to leave a genuine negative review- for various reasons. As I’ve said before, an issue is that frequently a seller or establishment of necessity requests your email address and phone number. Once they have these, they can (and do) send you a fuming message if you have written a fair, yet negative review of a faulty product or an under-par hotel room etc. I have never written a fake review nor an unjustly negative review. Certainly, no buyer or hotel owner has ever offered me (or any of my friends) bribes to write good review- so who are these customers receiving these gifts as bribes?

In the case of Amazon I explained how this happens.

Robert says:
31 July 2019

I did fall for a review on Amazon when buying a product. But when the Product was proved to be absolutely useless, I gave them the Truth about the product in a review of my own.
There should be NO review when sold online. If you discover whatever you bought is not up to standard, then you should be able to return it at No cost to yourself, and get a refund or replacement immediately.
I now Never rely on any appraisement for anything online anymore.

A new article about fake reviews on Facebook: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/08/facebook-still-flooded-with-fake-review-groups-warns-which/

It would not have occurred to me to rely on anything published on Facebook to help me spend my money. 🙁

Suella Postles says:
8 August 2019

Fascinatingly when I wanted to leave thr reason a 5 out of 10 for British Telecom T, the on-line survey suddenly had problems and had to shut down. I wonder how often that happens with other services if we want to leave a critical comment?

AHMET ACAR says:
4 September 2019

Nothing in life is more expensive than a cheap product!

Wise words Ahmet did they come from a wise man ?

Howard Quinn says:
6 October 2019

I came across this on Facebook
https://twitter.com/SurveyCompareUK
and wonder whether it is a site that pays people for positive fictitious reviews.

Malcolm says:
24 October 2019

Ignore 5/5 comments and most of the 4/5 ones and you won’t go far wrong. The same with IMDB reviews of of films and TV series. Most 10/10 scores would be lucky to get 6/10 in reality.

I submitted the following review on Amazon a few days ago for a Ztotop product:

“1-year warranty is dependent on you submitting a good review

“Ztotop’s ‘Thank You’ card reads: ‘After you leave a helpful review you can get a 1 year warraty (sic) for your product’.
“I had heard about companies bribing customers to leave good reviews, but in this case they are bribing you for something that you have a legal right to anyway.
Utterly shocking, and clearly not a company you can trust.”

Amazon has rejected the review on the grounds that it does not adhere to their guidelines (and very kindly provided a non-functioning link to their review guidelines).

So Amazon is preventing me from alerting potential purchasers that reviews of the product may not be trustworthy.

tobykeynes, the legal position is that no guarantee has to be offered:
From the Consumer Rights Act 2015 explanation for traders:
There is no requirement under the Act to offer a guarantee alongside goods. But if you – or the manufacturer – opt to provide a guarantee without extra charge, that if stated or advertised specifications are not met then the price will be reimbursed or goods will be repaired, replaced or otherwise handled, that guarantee is legally binding.

Your rights are protected under the Act but how you would exercise them depends upon who supplied the product. It is the supplying retailer with whom you have a contract. Presumably in this case it was Amazon. So any failure in the first 6 years would be down to them to resolve.

If it was just “fulfilled by Amazon”, where they seem to disclaim responsibility for most things, then I don’t know how rights would be exercised. It is time this was resolved.

carole thompson says:
25 October 2019

i also left a bad review for a rug on amazon and received the same comment on the grounds that it did not adhere to their guidelines (they then also provided a non-functioning link to their guidelines) I felt so very angry that people like myself were being misled by a company they trusted. I am appalled that Amazon still get away with it.