The Plague of Fake Reviews

The UK government plans to make fake reviews illegal. Unfortunately, many reviews on major sites such as Google, Amazon and others are fake. The fakes are fairly easy to spot, with similar language used throughout.

However, fake reviews appear in two forms - there are the obvious glowing reviews for a product or service. But, another, more recent twist is where a business pays for fake negative reviews to be written regarding a rival. These, too, are easy to spot with the same language used throughout.

It is one thing to artificially boost your business with fake positive reviews, but damaging another business with fake negative reviews is a new low. (It is the main reason why we as a business do not use third-party review services).

It is important to note that so-called checks can be easily overcome with businesses providing a budget to buy their products so that the subsequent reviews appear to be from legitimate customers. Likewise, this can also be done with negative reviews.

The financial and marketing incentive to fake reviews is too high for some businesses to ignore. Also, on sites such as Amazon, damaging rival third-party sellers has become a common-place tactic.

The proposal to finally tackle fake reviews is part of a major shake-up in consumer and business powers to be given to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). These new powers include the headline-grabbing figure of fines of up to 10% of world turnover. However, these new powers will come to nothing unless the CMA is properly funded and can bring a significant number of cases.

It does not bode well when the government references "cowboy builders", suggesting that the CMA may have set its sights fairly low. However, the reality is that the real power in competition law emanates from the US and the EU - and will continue to do so.

A UK government in need of a trade deal with the US is very unlikely to take on the large US tech companies - with their monopolistic practices and opaque revenue models.

In the meantime, can we recommend the reviews on johnlewis.com - reading them has now become a source of entertainment for many. The exacting customers of the John Lewis Partnership do not hold back on making their feelings known - and the reviews are so funny (and sometimes) picky that they could never be faked.

Further reading:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57887035

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