/ Shopping

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.

16 February 2020

Aways dodgy when you see 2st review of a newly opened restaurant or when there is a negative review followed by a wonderful one from a first time reviewer.

MR Sam Okyere says:
27 March 2020

The biggest give away, always look for reviews where the writer has given at least 10 reviews. So many of the 5 star reviews, it is the writer’s only review. Also always rule of the extreme’s 5 stars and 1 stars. Everyone can have a bad experience, issue with a meal at the restaurant, double booking. Equally with a product, don’t review it for at least a month. You write down how amazing your shiny phone or item is. Then it breaks down, but it is too late to share your up to date experiences with us to prevent us from falling into the same trap. Finally I look at the % of ratings across the ratings. You expect to see a high amount in the “4” or “5” star, with a few disgruntled comments in the “1” star. I tend to read the a broad selection to see if the issue is a reoccurring one, ie loud music, poor seats, friendly staff.

alan says:
23 April 2020

I will never buy anything electrical from Amazon again, you simply cant trust the reviews, from electricals that pack in after a few weeks to can openers that simply don’t work all have hundreds of positive reviews which in hindsight must be fake, I’m definitely going to a bricks and mortar store next time I want something, at least then you have a guarantee and some sort of redress.

Mandy Castle says:
30 April 2020

I brought some lights and a mobile phone brand new, after a few weeks they both stopped working and I could not get money back as seller just ignored msges. Lost nearly £200 never buy electrical stuff online again

Janette says:
29 May 2020

I had a problem with an item from ebay for which I left a negative review I had loads of emails from the seller asking me to remove the review they even gave me back my money (pretty good for an item that was useless) but I did not remove the review what is the point in leaving a review to help on there people having the same problem as I had and then withdrawal it

David murphy says:
29 May 2020

Never trust eBay or Amazon
The majority of items are fake, also used items make to look new and sold at inflated prices


Too right. Have had some dodgy stuff off Amazon. Big name items with 5star reviews and when they arrive are obviously inferior quality and really crap. Don’t order as much off them as previously, just things I know are genuine.

Hi Jayne – Do you find any difference between products purchased from Amazon compared with their Marketplace traders? Marketplaces are can sell dodgy products and the current (June) Which? magazine warns of dangerous products being sold on online marketplaces.

I suggest that if you buy from Amazon you stick to product they sell themselves. It would be interesting to know if that helps with avoiding fake reviews.

Told by chap doing aerial installation at neighbours house that all his family and friends do his reviews on Chevksttade

There must be many scams out there you may notice a lot of items for instance for £99 special introductory offer £29.99, certainly a come and get me buy, but as the saying goes if it sounds too good to be true then it is.

Barbara Brady says:
29 May 2020

Ordered a laptop cable on Amazon during lockdown. It arrived in time and as described, but with a card from Amazon offering me a gift card for £5 if I left a 5 star review for the company or a £10 gift card if I sent a screenshot of my 5 star review to the company.
But the blatant bribery only made me determined not bother to post a review. The irony being that I would have given the company a deserved 5 stars had the whole thing not have been so underhanded and openly dishonest.

you have to decide if a deal sounds to good to be true its a possible fake

Francis says:
29 May 2020

Hi, I fully back your campaign. I have read several reviews on Amazon which clearly referred to a different product. One product was a DVD an opera but the review clearly referred to another DVD, I was able to identify the fake review because it referred to different singers. After experiencing these I have always looked at the negative reviews (usually those with one or two stars) and make my purchase decision on these rather than reviews with 5 stars.

I try to evaluate an item before I buy it on line because it’s obvious that most items have exaggerated reviews, Joe Lycett did a brilliant sketch about it on his last show.

The other day I bought a temporary replacement for our David Vantage Pro weather station from Amazon. It’s a cheap ’n cheerful display and outdoor sensor, called ONEVER Weather station.

What intrigued me was the instruction sheet, rather amusingly called ‘a manual’. The sheet is almost unintelligible, so poor is the English, but two things stood out:

1. The instruction which stated “Preferred option is to plug weather staton into mains. It runs on 5v, so that would be somewhat shocking.

but it was the next bit which was breathtaking

2. To be in with a chance to win a full refund on your purchase of this epic weather station:

Please go to Amazon and type “Epicweather”
In the search bar, click on the weather station link. Scroll down to near the bottom of the page to where you wll see “Write a customer review”.
Write your five star review.

All 5 star reviews will be eligible for entry.

This is the first I’ve seen of this particular tactic. In effect, your ‘free draw’ costs a five star review.

How very very topical Ian!

I have recently purchased a small box air cooler from Amazon that operates via a USB cable connected to my laptop. It is made in China with ‘Notice Before Use’ as follows:

1. For the first use, the filter in the air cooler is completely dry, it shall be operated for one hour after starting up, and the cooling can be felt after about 10 minutes.
2. This product is not allowed to operate without filter element. When the filter element is not installed properly and the water tank has water, it may cause leakage.
3. It is recommended to place on the flat, so as not to knock over the sink cover off, so as to pour out the water phenomenon.
4. Please check the USB port is connect before using, the USB port is in the lower left corner of the back of the air cooler.
5, The output voltage of USB power supply should be 5V DC and output current should be equal or larger than 2A
6. You need to turn off the air cooler before open the top lid.

I also bought a small security case for a relative currently in care from Amazon which has gone missing in transit. Amazon tracking device reports it was delivered giving the exact date and time and that it was handed to a resident. The care manager is adamant it was not delivered to them and furthermore, it is not showing on their CCTV system. All contact with Amazon via ‘phone and email are shut down at the moment “Due to the Coronavirus and the extra demand” and it seems any further attempt to establish the whereabouts of the missing parcel is blocked.

Well, after several attempts to contact Amazon without fail, I eventually discovered a roundabout way of contacting them via the review system pertaining to the missing item and posted a very rude comment saying I was unable to post a review on this item as it has disappeared without trace and why is Amazon making it so difficult for me to report this?

Is anyone else having trouble contacting Amazon at present?

You have to wonder whether imported products comply with current safety standards if no care has been taken to produce instructions in decent English.

I would do what Beryl has done and plug USB-powered devices into a laptop or use a surplus charger from a reliable source.

A few years ago I was given a bedside alarm with some weather features by a child. If it ever gets used I will ditch the supplied power supplied which does work but might cause a fire in the event of a fault. It’s important to check that the ratings of power supplies to make sure that they are adequate for the product when fitting a replacement.

I was thinking of getting one of these, but I did some rooting around and eventually found a website purportedly of the actual producer and manufacturer in the USA. A few moments purusing and it is really telling, it’s a completely fabricated site. First and major clue, try and find ‘contact details’ or ‘contact us’, – not there! Nor an address of the company itself. As it appears these things are made where English is a third option, they can hardly be produced in the USA, can they?

Em says:
30 May 2020

Since Beryl has mentioned “a small box air cooler”, I feel obliged to point out that there are many useless or fake reviews and bogus tests of these products on the internet.

Firstly, any product that cools by evaporation (an aptly named “swamp cooler”) is going to be ineffective in the UK, and especially in any country with high relative humidity where it will make the situation even more uncomfortable. The only place this type of device will work is somewhere like Arizona or the Middle East desert. So even a good review of a well-designed device would not be applicable to the UK.

There are some tests of these devices on YouTube designed to demonstrate the cooling effect, that are just laughable when you think about it carefully. In one test the temperature of the air stream leaving a hair drier is measured a few centimetres (cm) in front of the nozzle, and again after the air stream is blown through the chiller box – of necessity now at a distance of at least 30 cm or more from the hair drier.

Through this “miracle” of modern technology, the air temperature at the outlet of the cooler has been reduced significantly. It’s still above ambient room temperature, so wouldn’t actually help to make you feel cooler, but the demonstrator just glosses over that fact.

Let’s now conduct our own experiment, replacing the air cooler with the open-ended cardboard box it came in, or even a cereal packet, and repeat the temperature measurements. A similar temperature reduction can be observed. If fact, why bother with the expense of a cardboard box? Just measure the temperature of the air as it leaves the hair dryer, and the temperature some 30-60 cm further away.

Without the hocus-pocus of the mini air chiller in the way, it should be obvious that the air from the hair dryer is being cooled, as it mixes with the surrounding air at room temperature. The further you move way from the hair dryer, the more the hot air mixes and is dispersed.

Em says:
30 May 2020

Another fake science test of these chillers involves taking the surface temperature at the inlet and exit of the box. Sure enough, water evaporation makes a difference of a degree or two. But temperature is not a measure of effective cooling or heating power.

You might as well argue that a can of beer taken from the fridge is even more effective than the air cooler, or I can heat my whole house in winter with the tip of a 15W soldering iron.

If you (accidentally) grab the wrong end of a soldering iron you won’t feel cold for a while.

len underwood says:
1 June 2020

Before buying ANYTHING, I always refer to Which FIRST, and then go on to the Best Buys, and select from there, and I have been very happy with my purchases, from TV’s, Washing m/cs, headphones, and a few other items
If I can’t find it on Which, I then go to Amazon and investigate the recommends and read through them, together with the questions and answers, so I really feel that I do all my homework.

Pauline Cornah says:
1 June 2020

I buy very little on line….apart from groceries at the moment. If I’m buying something I check with Which and also with John Lewis.

Michael says:
1 June 2020

If I’m considering buying anything online I read the bad reviews first because these are more likely to reflect the truth!

gwen says:
1 June 2020

I no longer routinely use reviews as there are bound to be fakes in among them. I am interested in the critical ones as the writers are more likely to be genuine.
The use of fakes by sellers means even genuine posituve reviews currently lack credibility