Amazon users who post or who commission agents to post fake reviews are now more likely to face legal action by Amazon as the company has so far this year issued more than 1000 law suites against both users and vendors for posting fake or manipulated online reviews.
As some Amazon sellers offer refunds and discounts in exchange for good reviews, the UK Competition and Markets Authority has recently published its investigation into online reviews following complaints about fake reviews being posted onto review sites, negative reviews not being published and businesses paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers.
Following the investigation, in April 2016 the Authority wrote to more than 50 marketing companies, businesses that use the services of marketing companies and publishers of online articles and blogs, to warn them that helping to arrange or publish advertising or other marketing that is not clearly distinguishable from the opinion of a journalist or blogger may result in them breaking the law.
Businesses that mislead consumers may be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The UK Competition and Markets Authority has also issued advice to businesses whose products are being reviewed that they could be breaking the law if they
- pretend to be a customer and write reviews about their own products
- commission third parties to write fake reviews
- offer inducements – money or gifts – to customers to write positive reviews their business
In the United States, Amazon has pushed forward with legal actions against vendors who it says manipulated its review system by offering unfair inducements in return for good reviews.
The topic of Amazon fake business and product reviews was the centre of the BBC Radio 4 consumer affair program You and Yours. Amazon specialist lawyer Yair Cohen discusses the latest developments below.