Amazon and Google to be probed by watchdog over fake reviews

Credit: Pexels

Amazon and Google are to be probed over fake and misleading reviews by the competition's watchdog.

The Competition and Markets Authority has opened a formal investigation into whether the two tech giants have done enough to crack down on the practice.

The watchdog said its concerns have been prompted by a year-long initial inquiry, which caused it to launch this formal investigation.

In some cases users might have reviewed the same range of products or businesses, while at other times, reviews suggest that the writer was paid or given another incentive to write the post.

It questioned whether the two are doing enough to investigate and promptly remove fake and misleading reviews from their platforms, and impose adequate sanctions on reviewers or businesses engaged in the practice.

An Amazon warehouse. Credit: PA

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations.

“Equally, it’s simply not fair if some businesses can fake five-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.

“It’s important that these tech platforms take responsibility and we stand ready to take action if we find that they are not doing enough."

If it finds that the two companies are not doing enough, the CMA could force them to change how they work.

But officials stressed that they have not yet reached a view on whether either has broken the law.

Last year Facebook, Instagram and eBay removed groups and banned individuals for buying or selling fake reviews on their sites.

It comes after an ITV News investigation revealed millions of unsold - and often unused - stock items from an Amazon warehouse were being thrown away every year.

Watch footage showing the 'destruction zone' in Amazon's Dunfermline warehouse where millions of unsold items are destroyed every year

Undercover filming from inside an Amazon warehouse revealed the sheer scale of waste, which includes Smart TVs, laptops, books and sealed face masks – all sorted into boxes marked “destroy”.

These were products which were never sold or returned by a customer.

Almost all could have been redistributed to charities or those in need.

Instead, the items were thrown into vast bins, carried away by lorries (which we tracked), and dumped at either recycling centres or, worse, a landfill site.

Amazon told ITV News that the landfill site also has a recycling centre and that none of their items go to landfill in the UK. 

ITV News cameras film pallets piled with unwanted goods being unloaded at a waste recycling site near to Amazon's Dunfermline warehouse. Credit: ITV News

In light of the revelations, the goverment said it would consider changing the law.

Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday he is “shocked and amazed” by ITV News' reports.

He added: “I think the whole House would agree the practice is bizarre and unacceptable.”

Amazon’s practice is not illegal under current UK law.