As online shopping becomes increasingly in demand during the coronavirus pandemic, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is planning to examine how online stores and other websites have failed to manage fake reviews that deceive online shoppers.

The Daily Mail reported that the watchdog is concerned over British consumers spending billions on unreliable products, holiday tours, and trades. The lockdown highlighted the importance of online shopping to consumers.  In response, the CMA will examine how sites track and respond to fake reviews, although it did not identify the businesses involved.

Among the websites that have been criticized include Amazon, eBay, and TripAdvisor. Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram are being accused of cradling fake review creators. The CMA probe will look at suspicious reviews, businesses operating the reviews, and how websites manage these evaluations where reviewers are paid or receive incentives.

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said they "will not hesitate to take further action" if they find these websites violate the law.

Competition watchdog probes how popular online stores and websites manage fake reviews 

Reacting over the allegations, TripAdvisor claimed that "no other review platform does more to fight fake reviews." Also, eBay said that it would cooperate with the CMA while Amazon said their customers' trust was "at the heart of our approach."Meanwhile, Facebook gave the watchdog the same assurance on tackling the fake reviews issue.

While CMA claimed that it is not alleging any website to have done anything illegal, it aimed to assure the public that strong measures are in place and authorities would enforce the law, if needed. It added it would seek for necessary changes and actions, including pursuing a case in courts.

Andrea Coscelli said, most consumers who become more dependent on online shopping read online reviews when deciding which products or services to buy." If someone is persuaded to buy something after reading a fake or misleading review, they could end up wasting their money on a product or service that wasn't what they wanted," said Coscelli adding that it is vital to have genuine online reviews.

Coscelli also said that they will examine what these major websites are doing to crack down on fake reviews and if they are doing enough. "We will not hesitate to take further action if we find evidence that they aren't doing what's required under the law." 

The consumer group Which? already warned the public over the rise of fake or misleading reviews on numerous websites and called for a CMA investigation earlier this year.

Which?'s head of campaigns Neena Bhati welcomed the regulator's decision to turn its attention to review these sites. The group's investigations have repeatedly exposed fake or biased reviews of people who get salaries or incentives for what they post. The group also claimed these reviews are "being used by unscrupulous sellers to mislead people on some of the world's biggest websites."

Bhati added that her group is "providing further evidence to the CMA" that will be useful to push its investigation. Meanwhile, Bhati said they "expect the regulator to take appropriate action against platforms" that failed to protect its consumers against these unlawful acts.

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