Fake reviews for products listed on Amazon are being sold online in bulk for a little as £5 each, according to Which?.
The consumer watchdog found 10 websites openly selling fake reviews to third-party sellers on Amazon’s marketplace, and also incentivising positive reviews in exchange for payment or free products.
‘An uphill struggle’ against widespread fake reviews
Which? revealed that the fake review industry appears to be thriving, despite being strictly against Amazon’s terms and conditions.
Websites selling fake reviews included so-called “package” deals of rave reviews, that sold for about £15, as well as larger bulk packages of £620 for 50 reviews, with the cost increasing to £8,000 for 1,000 positive reviews.
Which? found that five of the businesses investigated had more than 702,000 product reviewers on their accounts.
Product reviewers are offered small payments, alongside free or discounted products, to compose fake reviews. Which? also found the websites offered advice on how to write false reviews that would avoid detection from Amazon.
To protect consumers from being misled, Which? is urging the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to take action to stop the sites peddling fake reviews.
Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: "More people are shopping online than ever before due to the coronavirus crisis - yet our latest research shows that Amazon is facing an uphill struggle against a relentless and widespread fake reviews industry geared towards misleading consumers.
"The regulator must crack down on bad actors and hold sites to account if they fail to keep their users safe.
"If it is unable to do so, the government must urgently strengthen online consumer protections."
An Amazon spokesman said: "We remove fake reviews and take action against anyone involved in abuse.
"We have won dozens of injunctions against providers of fake reviews across Europe and we won't shy away from taking legal action.”
How to spot a fake review
There are a number of steps to consider when examining whether a review is fake or real on Amazon marketplace:
- Always be sceptical. When examining reviews, be sceptical about its authenticity. If there is an unusually high number of reviews for one product compared to others in that category, it may be fake
- Re-read the review. Another telltale sign of a fake review is similar language being used in a series of reviews
- Be wary of unfamiliar brands. If you don’t recognise the brand, do some research on your own to check if it's legitimate. Check for product reviews on other websites
- Don’t always trust lots of images and videos. Be wary if reviews feature lots of photos. Sellers can incentivise fake reviewers by encouraging people to add photos or videos to reviews