Today marks the start of National Consumer Week and National Trading Standards have sounded the alarm about fake reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority is currently leading an investigation into fake reviews, which includes a formal inquiry into online platforms over concerns that they have not been doing enough to combat fake reviews on their sites. This work has built on action taken by the CMA last year over the trading of fake reviews, which resulted in some well-known platforms removing groups and banning individuals for buying and selling fake reviews on their sites.

National Trading Standards say that according to their data, “UK shoppers have bought almost 80 million items on the back of glowing online reviews – only to be bitterly disappointed when they arrive”.

They say that for 56% of online shoppers, online reviews are a deciding factor when purchasing a product or service and 67% of those using online reviews are more likely to buy a product or service if it has a five-star rating – highlighting the faith many place in these reviews.

Fake online reviews are estimated to potentially influence £23 billion of UK consumer spending every year.

The CMA has previous dealt with cases which included requiring a retailer to disclose unfavourable reviews so that customers had the complete picture, and ensuring that a marketing firm clearly identified when reviews posted online by social media celebrities were advertising. In addition, it secured improvements to an accommodation provider’s review system so that guests can more easily leave feedback where they have chosen to cut short their stay in a property.

The warning from Trading Standards reminds companies to watch out for fake reviews.  It is also a timely reminder that companies should also ensure that the reviews posted on their own websites are genuine.  Importantly, companies cannot cherry-pick the best reviews.

Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash