/ 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.

Elizabeth Richardson says:
22 December 2020

Please let consumers know that the ‘BedLinen Shop’ is selling shoddy goods and have false reviews.
I purchased a king size bedding set in ‘Silk’ from them for the Sale price of £179.00 previously£269.00.
It was cheap and nasty, was too small for the bed and not the ‘Silver’ colour advertised, rather is was brownish cream with brown stitching and cheap cotton white background. I asked to return it, they asked for photos, I sent them, they said send it back and say it’s worth 100 Bhat (£1:00) and that I would lose £49 postage; they are in Thailand but advertise as an English company. I took the item to the Post Office and it was going to cost me £83.76 to send it back, it wasn’t worth doing and I think they rely on this happening, I see they are still advertising and have reduced their ‘Reviews’ to 4.8 I have written them many times since I asked for a refund I have not had any response. So I’ve lost my money and they are still selling counterfeit goods taking hard earned money from the public in GB, Australia, Canada, USA and other countries round the world.. someone should stop them.
Thank you

Wunmi Austen says:
22 January 2021

I had been a shopper on Amazon for some years now and I always read reviews thoroughly before making a purchase.

I have sInce found out to my utter disappointment that most of these reviews are fake!

Have never taken Amazon reviews seriously and never felt the need to purchase anything from such a company.Shopping this way will cause our local council tax soar

Carole tilson says:
10 March 2021

I also don’t purchase from Amazon,never did believe the reviews published on their site.High Streets are closing down and they are part of the problem.

Finding a seller was fake after checking them after purchase; They didn’t post item and had an extraordinarily long expected delivery time I was told to wait 5 days after the expected delivery date to claim a refund. I left a review explaining the situation, Amazon refused to publish it. To their credit they refunded me.
I then went traditional and looked for the same item from a high street retailer with a website(only option at the time). Item was 20-30% cheaper than Amazon, it had a shop to return if faulty and was delivered within 3 days.
Lesson from all this. Amazon is great for looking for ideas & things but once you’ve seen something you fancy ”Google” it and you may find the same item at a traditional retailer or even at a local seller that pays rates. If they have a website you can order off them.

I have already written quite a bit in the system…

In Regards to my story line, I have nothing in regards people nationality yes he was of foreign nationality. The thing being I know where the chap come from.

Gus says:
6 April 2021

We usually check products reviews, services and companies on WHICH? because of its reliability. Therefore, you can imagine our surprise to see that Capital Driveways Ltd use the WHICH? Trusted Trader logo on their website. We used Capital Driveways Ltd not too long ago. The company provided a very unsatisfactory service, not fit for purpose. I made several request for the remedial work to be carried out under the provided 7 years guarantee, but Capital Driveways Ltd never responded. Furthermore, after checking Capital Driveways Ltd on WHICH? Trusted Trader page this message is displayed: “We couldn’t find any Which? Trusted Traders operating in the area of Edinburgh and Lothian, Scotland”.

Gus – I think this is a problem with a lot of traders who are franchisees. There seems to be an assumption that if one of the businesses performs satisfactorily it will be replicated across the entire operation and so the advertising is allowed to carry the Which? TT badge whether it is justified or not in the case of any individual franchise.

There are now thousands of franchised businesses covering a wide range of home services from lawn maintenance and driveways to gutter cleaning and glazing repairs. Many shops on the high street are also franchises. Personally, I have found the Which? Trusted Traders process unhelpful as part of the procurement exercise and the traders no more reliable than most others, although possibly better than those found on some other internet trade finder sites.

Using standardised advertisements, logos, liveries and products [where applicable] gives the impression of a uniform nationwide operation but that is far from the reality in my experience.

Brian Stanley Kirkman says:
11 April 2021

I do not believe that my Bank should be required to refund money to our account if we are conned by any scam. They should be required to recover any monies from the receiving Bank and if that Bank, having allowed an account to be opened by crooks/fraudsters, fails to provide a full refund, their licence to operate in the UK and its dependencies should be revoked. If crooks cannot obtain a bank account, they cannot scam anyone.

Brian – I agree with you up to a point, but I think there would be total turmoil if any bank could be shut down as soon as a full refund was not made from its funds – so it wouldn’t happen.

The cost of refunding would remain to be paid by the customers of the bank concerned. it would all be hushed up, non-disclosure agreements and so on, and we wouldn’t know how often this occurred. There has to be a way of penalising the management personally in cases like this for allowing it to happen.

Some people believe that all bank employees are honest and trustworthy and above any form of corruption to facilitate the opening of new accounts. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were possible to open an account on-line with just a brief visit and only one member of the bank’s staff would check the application and the credentials submitted: a quick credit reference check, a couple of vague testimonials or personal references, a name and address check, tick a few boxes, a nice juicy cheque with the application, and “there you are, sir, it’s all set up for you . . .”. No eye contact, photocopy the passport without looking at the individual, ask about his time in Malta, and hand out a set of instructions for on-line banking. Pure fantasy, of course!

It seems to me that, rather like the Consumer Rights Act where you need to justify a claim for a defective product (a manufacturing problem) – not down to abuse, misuse, not following the instructions – we should all need to justify a claim when we have fallen for a scam. The present philosophy seems to make the bank automatically guilty, with little regard to the part played by the “victim” and their responsible or irresponsible behaviour.

When a bank has been negligent then it should pay, and that should apply to banks that allow accounts to be opened and operated without due diligence. But just to expect banks to cough up – the money comes from you and me if course – is both unfair and does nothing to foster responsibility by their customers.

So many ways where people can lose money have been widely publicised, including “services” that charge money for what can be done cheaper by going direct to the provider, like a government agency. Those who don’t take notice of such warnings should simply accept they made an error and not expect me, and others, to give them our money.

I suppose it’s another grumpy day – the sun is shining but the rain has been raining and the temperature has been colding….

I have had very bad experiences with ‘recommended’ traders sites, who have been appalling. Stealing my money by lying about the quality of work or lack of it, lying reviews, insisting on taking money from women on their own i.e. widows divorcees before starting any work of buying necessary equipment. All the false recommendations are complete lies and so are the companies that back them e.g. Better Builder. Rated people, Check a Trade’ to name just some. At the time having lost my husband, he died, I did not know where to turn. Fortunately I have found you, as I need a good builder for extensive damage occurred recently. I live Nr. Bedford, in a rather nice village.

Robert Child says:
20 June 2021

See my Trustpilot review re: “World of Rewards” scams.

I think it’s unethical and immoral that before you can enter a review on a book you have purchased from Amazon you have at to have spent £40 on goods in that financial year.

I stopped using any reviews posted on Amazon, Facebook, Trip Adviser some time ago as I do not feel it is my job to try to assess the veracity of a comment about a product or service.
Given that I want to purchase something I try to look outside the normal web sites. And then go to well-known brands. But there are traps here as we know. Some products they sell are not very good!
Until we, the consumers, stop using these sites and their profits drop they will take little action. The big players have established a dominant position and love it, every marketing directors dream.
I am dubious about the numbers they quote about the sites they delete. I don’t believe them: they manage/manipulate the numbers. Monitoring their sites costs them money. I listen to their spokesmen very carefully and sense a level of arrogance. They make all HUGE profits. Neither do they pay a lot of tax. Reflect on the mindset of the directors! What is their focus, customer or bonus?
Unless their is some penalty and it is applied then the likes of Facebook and Amazon, Facebook etc. will do little and in 10 years time we will be having the same conversation.

Cnsumer protection is too low a priority in government policy . These are not victimless crimes

Across many sectors . particularly on line, crime is rising .It needs government action on the social media companies that enable these crimes.

Jed — Why cannot citizen action curb the crimes on social media? Nobody needs to use it and it has been well-known for a long time that much harm derives from its use.

From today’s news: Writing fake online reviews could be made illegal https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57887035

Which? gets a mention.

I notice that the BBC has revealed the identity of the consumer minister. I bet that has sent shock waves around Whitehall. I thought that was supposed to be top secret. People will start asking questions.

I do like the way the government has sprung into action, highlighting the Farepak debacle as one of its main prompts. That occurred in 2006. Nice to the see the government is responding in a timely manner.

They didn’t mention Fire Auto and Marine though.

I wonder how much influence a small business minister might have. Would not a larger one have been better?

What we need is a Consumer Department with its own minister that would encompass, for example, the operations of Trading Standards, the OPSS, and similar activities.

It seems the small business minister has been speaking out of turn and had to be contradicted this morning by Downing Street.

He said that self-isolating when pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app should be a matter for people and employers to decide.

“It is ‘crucial’ to self-isolate when told and business should be supporting employees to do so”, a No 10 spokesperson has said.

Not quite a reprimand, but it shows where confusing or unclear messages can get you. Perhaps the PM’s ministers don’t understand what he is saying when he takes the podium. I must admit it is sometimes difficult to follow him: for a loquacious person he can be quite obscure at times; he seems to struggle to articulate his thoughts or his meanings.

Perhaps the hapless Paul Scully will be returning to isolation himself now.

Anonymous says:
31 July 2021

the public and private sectors are working together to deceive consumers and to increase the gap between them and us using the law to divide .Both are deceiving consumers with intent .

I am very concerned that a company called Rightangled which is on the government list of recommended PCR testers was very late in giving results of tests so my friends had to pay for second tests and Rightangled refuses to refund the £153.45 my friends paid .The test results took 9 days by which time they were abroad. The company is run by Abdullah Sabyah and seems a con

Zafer says:
16 August 2021

Many things must change in business life. Advertising sector is the main reason for “lies”, as social media companies/fake review sources, work on “advertising” initiative. So people call that “liars cycle” business. Competition through fake news (positive or negative) must not be allowed by any type of media, for the sake of revenue generation. Technology should not spoil the values of societies.

Elaine says:
16 September 2021

I’m infuriated by review platforms removing negative reviews of a genuinely poor stressful experience just because the company being reviewed is a paying customer of the review platform. No explanation given just ignored and frustrated further by having to read more reviews of people having to endure the same poor experience just before their review is also removed. Why are these review platforms allowed to continue their bias towards their own paying customers. Who governs and holds them to account?