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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

I post reviews of products I have bought to give purchasers an idea of the quality of a product and I always look at reviews myself before making a decision to buy, but I realise some are fake and more should be done by the companies to stop it. Unfortunately it’s part of life these days, but reviews are only a guide line and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. It’s the fake products that worry me more, especially as this type of crime is on the increase and some of the products can cause serious injury or death and more should be done to try and stamp it out.

I agree. Fake and dangerous products present tangible risks to us all.

Fake reviews are dishonest if not fraudulent – they seek to trick us in to purchasing goods or services by misrepresentation. STOP THEM!

Avril Manson says:
18 July 2019

I’ve been aware of this problem for a while now. If I’m making an expensive purchase tend to check Reevoo website as reviews can’t be posted without proof of purchase, making it a lot more likely to be a genuine reviewer

Eddie says:
18 July 2019

It’s not only fake reviews but fake listings, for example many times I have come across products for sale on Amazon at less cost than other sellers, which ask to email the seller to purchase.
No matter how many times I reported it to Amazon they change accounts and then start again. Amazon should really have a report button on each listing but do not. Fake reviews can be seen across many platforms, especially eBay Amazon and trust pilot, problem is companies bribe customers with free products to leave a review big or small its ingrained into marketing, the worst in my opinion are the Chinese sellers, listing as items in UK, any problem you have to return it at your cost to China, which they know very few people will do as cost prohibitive.

To be fair, most Chinese companies selling on Amazon operate UK-based return and distribution depots.

Francis says:
18 July 2019

Amazon have some associated problems. For example recently I was looking at reviews of CD opera recordings and discovered that the reviews (and there were several) were wrongly listed and not for the recording I was considering purchasing but for an alternative by different singers and conductors. Consequently the reviews can’t be trusted. I found it so difficult to find a way to notify Amazon I gave up after wasting a lot of time.

Yes! That is a real problem in Amazon where they apply reviews of one product to a similar product which may not be what you want at all.

Peter Finn says:
18 July 2019

Recently, after having given a one star review for a product that simply did not work,I was hassled by the seller to accept a refund and rewrite the review.I would not do this and as a result, no refund is forthcoming.Yes, beware reviews, although they are all we have to go on, aren’t they!

Peter: you have the right to return a product within 28 days of it arriving. You don’t have to give a reason. If it’s faulty, then they have to reimburse you the full cost, including postage.

We chose somewhere to stay overnight to break a long journey through booking.com. The pub was described as having a good reputation & food. It was the worst place we ever saw & had it not been so late in the evening we would have rejected it on first sight. We did not even want to get undressed & go to bed. It was scruffy, dirty, dilapidated, insecure & under facilited. We complained afterwards to booking.com, & they removed it from their website. The bad review we posted on line about it never appeared. On checking again a few weeks later the original entry for accommodation & food had been reinstated – with it’s original glowing report. We’ll never used booking dot com again.

Anne: it’s always better to avoid booking.com and book directly the hotel or B&B, anyway.

Chris Orwell says:
18 July 2019

Thank you for that Anne. I will not use this company again myself. I will share this with my friends. Let’s aim for a more moral and just world

I’ve seen an item on Amazon scored at a full five stars – very rare. When I looked at the reviews they were for completely different items, so different that it should have been obvious to even a semi-competent system. There were no reviews for the actual item.

This is a continuing and serious problem with Amazon’s approach.

On EBay I am very specific on my filters, this does not appear to make a difference, I am still getting items outside the filters set. When an item has arrived I always give a review, good or bad, a good review is automatically accepted, a negative review has to wait a period of time to be posted, why? I do not depend on reviews only, because they can be so very misleading, I tend to use people and traders I have found to be customer service friendly, a tip I use is to email a question regarding the item, you gain great insight into a company by their speed and content reply.

I am naturally suspicious of reviews, hard sell, fast talkers, pushy peddlers. How do I know reviews havn’t been written by wives, friends or even themselves.

It is almost inpossible to tell a fake from the real ones! they would not do it if they thought they could not get away with it. ( found it difficult to read these postings. Which seems to be going the same way as most! and printing with grey print on poor colour back grounds,making it difficult for a lot of us older people to read.

I agree with your comments about the clarity of Which? in both paper and digital form, Brian. I shall be glad when grey is no longer the trendy must-have colour.

Anson says:
18 July 2019

I put a hotel review on trip advisor. I said things like ‘good location’ ‘good staff’ but also the standard was not the 4 star as advertised it really was only 2.5 starts. Trip advertiser edited the review before publishing and removed the bit about 2.5 stars. So these firms even distort genuine reviews in their favour.

Isabel says:
18 July 2019

I bought from Amazon some supposed children’s hot water bottles with fluffy animal covers. They arrived from China and were anything but suitable. Dangerous and badly made. The supplier asked me to take my review off the site for a financial inducement. I did not.

I just don’t trust anything I reed in the internet anymore, unless I know the source and trust it.

Suzie says:
18 July 2019

I purchased an item from Amazon and they do like to know the customer’s opinion on a product which is understandable. I am sure the comments on Amazon are quite genuine, as I have found them to be very reputable, but what can one do when reading comments about hotels and restaurants on other sites. Unfortunately, we live in a world full where dishonesty is rife and there is very little one can do about it. Sadly, one cannot stop dishonesty, as this is the way of life these days.

Suzie

When shopping on Amazon, in particular, I always check how many stars are awarded and read a few of the best, and worst, customer comments. From these it soon becomes apparent that some do not even relate to the exact product I am interested in, so can be misleading. As for other review sites, it’s extraordinary how their findings on the same product or place vary from ‘outstanding’ to ‘dreadful’, until you appreciate that writing fake reviews is big business. Just search on ‘Are on-line reviews reliable?’ to get the facts.

Amritlal Mistry says:
18 July 2019

Amazon Prime ????????
I do not buy a lot, thus no need to join Amazon Prime and pay monthly.
I have just ordered some items yesterday BUT the delivery promised is early August ++++++.

Next time i will not order unless delivery date is known upfront.
Sad, to learn that 3/4 days “prompt” deliveries are no longer there.

Big loss for Amazon.

Gail says:
18 July 2019

I’ve never joined prime as I couldn’t justify paying full membership although I was offered a reduction in membership and item ordered next day delivery, this was beneficial as I needed said item urgently! Had my delivery following day as promised then cancelled membership and had full refund . Win win in this particular instance.

TripAdvisor is another dodgy platform. One of the places we stayed in Turkey The Mersoy Bellavista is full of false reviews. These are done by the staff as they get a 10% wage increase with a row of positive reviews. I have reported this to TripAdvisor on numerous occasions and they just ignore my request to have them removed, even though they are complicit in fraud due to publishing these reviews. Don’t trust TripAdvisor!

Les Thompson says:
18 July 2019

Many Android APPs appear to have dubious reviews. In particular one of the fitness APPs is regularly updated, often breaking it’s functionality, when users complain and give a one star rating there suddenly appear a large number of one word or irrelevant five star reviews.