British regulator opens formal investigation into Amazon and Google

by James Davey and Yadarisa Shabong

(Reuters) – The UK competition authority on Friday opened a formal investigation into Amazon and Google, which it suspects have not done enough to tackle bogus reviews on their respective sites.

The regulator said it will now collect additional information to determine whether the two tech giants may have broken consumer protection law by taking insufficient action to protect buyers from fake reviews.

The move follows a first investigation by the UK competition authority, opened in May 2020, which assessed the internal systems and processes of several platforms to identify and deal with fake reviews.

The regulator expressed concern that Amazon’s systems had failed to prevent and deter some sellers from manipulating product listings, for example by co-opting positive reviews on other products.

“We are concerned that millions of online shoppers will be misled by reading fake reviews and buying based on these recommendations,” said Andrea Coscelli, director general of the competition authority.

“Likewise, it is simply unfair that some companies can forge 5-star reviews to give their products or services the utmost importance, while law-abiding companies lose out.”

Last year, the UK authority’s actions on the matter led Facebook, Instagram and eBay to remove groups and ban people from buying and selling fake reviews on their sites.

(Report Yadarisa Shabong in Bangalore and James Davey in London; French version Hayat Gazzane, edited by Jean-Michel Bélot)

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