The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently gone public with the results of an eight-month investigation into fake reviews for sale on eBay.
Fake reviews are one of the year’s recurring stories, along with major brands skirting around cryptocurrency. In March and April we looked at the problems Which? magazine was reporting with the Amazon review economy. As one of the other biggest sales platforms online, it’s only natural eBay suffers some of the same problems.
The CMA estimates that less than a quarter of British internet users don’t take online reviews into account. The ‘trust factor’ is a major part of the life of an online retailer, on the same level of importance as same-day shipping, next-day delivery, etc.
According to the report, the CMA has found over 100 listings on eBay offering fake reviews. That is, these eBay listings allowed businesses to bid on fake reviews. In the same eight-month period, the CMA identified 26 Facebook groups. That is, “where people offered to write fake reviews or businesses recruited people to write fake and misleading reviews”.
Last Thursday, the CMA presented its findings to eBay and Facebook. Under direct orders, businesses removed offending listings. What’s more, they advised to put steps in place to prevent new content along the same lines.
The Chief Executive of the CMA, Andrea Coscelli, said “It is important that people are able to trust that reviews are genuine, rather than something someone has been paid to write.
“Fake reviews mean that people might make the wrong choice and end up with a product or service that’s not right for them. They’re also unfair to businesses who do the right thing.”
Amazon has spent some time working on the problem of detecting fake reviews. As Amazon controls its own marketplaces, it can cut short sellers who violate these rules.
Similar options to penalise businesses which rely on fake reviews exist for other services. Google Reviews could assign penalties to the company’s search performance. Independent review sites, which rely on their own trust value for their business model, may have to do something similar in future.
The shape of online reviews is likely to change significantly in the future.
The CMA has announced an appeal to businesses which have been offered fake review services.