Fake reviews being made illegal

Could Writing Fake Reviews Online Soon Be Illegal?

The UK government has announced proposals for a number of reforms that would crackdown onfake reviews by making it illegal to write or host them online.

The internet has spawned a whole review industry with the likes of Trustpilot, Google Reviews, Yelp, Amazon Reviews and so many more. Because of this, some unscrupulous retailers and manufacturers have found ways to gamify the system for their own benefit by utilizing and paying for fake reviews.

The UK government is looking to take action by proposing more powers for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which would in theory allow them to issue fines of up to 10% of a business’s global turnover.

Other proposed powers could include disqualifying company directors found guilty of false declarations and also the ability to block acquisitions from bigger businesses looking to cannibalize the market by acquiring young disruptive startup competitors.

By giving the CMA these additional powers it should make a big change to the implementation of the changes as they will no longer have to rely on the court system to bring about change which historically has taken many months if not years to process cases.

Will The US Follow Suit In Combatting Fake Reviews?

The UK and the US have very different government setups so what works for one will not necessarily work for the other. However, the prevalence of fake reviews is a problem shared amongst the two countries.

Fake reviews have been a hot topic amongst eCommerce sellers for a number of years. Just earlier this year Amazon had taken their boldest step so far by suspending a number of high-profile manufacturers for being involved in fake review schemes.

Back in 2019, the FTC prosecuted their first fake Amazon review case, so there is certainly a precedent for the government to take action when it deems it necessary, but it seems the scale of the problem is far beyond what the FTC can currently handle.

Apple Removes Fake Review Detection App From The App Store At Amazon’s Request

Whilst Amazon took some decisive action earlier in the year regarding fake reviews on their platform they did seemingly take a backward step just last week. Amazon had made a request to Apple for them to remove an app called Fakespot from their app store.

Fakespot was a well-known app that would use an algorithm to rank Amazon reviews and give them a score to determine the likelihood of them being genuine or fake. They would then rank Amazon listings according to which ones had the most genuine reviews.

The problem according to Amazon however is that their app took Amazon content and overlaid new content on the top which is against Amazon policies and was misleading to app users.

“The app in question provides customers with misleading information about our sellers and their products, harms our sellers’ businesses, and creates potential security risks.”

Amazon Spokesperson

This leads to the question that surely if a third party can create some code and an algorithm to detect fake reviews then why can’t Amazon do the same? Instead, they have acted by attempting to close the business down by having them removed for a breach of their terms and conditions.

As it stands right now the Fakespot app is still available on the Google Android Play Store.

Fake reviews online will most likely always be a problem at some level. However, this step by the UK government is a step in the right direction that will most likely deter the vast majority of businesses engaging in the practice by putting more strict consequences in place.

We do believe that it is going to take a combined effort from both major marketplaces such as Amazon, third-party review websites, and governments to truly make the largest impact possible.

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