An Amazon Prime van is show in Seattle, Washington, US, in this June 27 2018 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/LINDSEY WASSON
An Amazon Prime van is show in Seattle, Washington, US, in this June 27 2018 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/LINDSEY WASSON

Amazon.com and Google are facing formal probes into possible violations of UK consumer protection rules over a failure to shield their users from an onslaught of fake reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority said on Friday it had opened investigations to gather more information and decide whether the tech giants may have broken the law by not doing enough to address the problem. It follows an initial probe in May 2020 that looked at the way several platforms dealt with phoney reviews, the CMA said.

“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations,” Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the CMA, said in a statement. “It’s simply not fair if some businesses can fake five-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.”

Amazon and Google are facing intense regulatory scrutiny across Europe as authorities crack down on the power of the US tech giants.

Two months ago, Facebook removed 16,000 posts dealing in fake or misleading reviews after the UK antitrust regulator moved to clamp down on the false reports. Amazon has said it blocked about 200-million suspected fake reviews in 2020 before they were seen by customers. It said “bad actors” via social media platforms were to blame for some of them.

“It’s important that these tech platforms take responsibility and we stand ready to take action if we find that they are not doing enough,” Coscelli said.

Amazon devotes “significant resources to preventing fake or incentivised reviews from appearing in our store,” the company said in an e-mailed response to the CMA’s announcement. Amazon said it would continue to assist the CMA, and “we note its confirmation that no findings have been made against our business”.

Google did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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