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Fake online shopping reviews slammed in new study

22 June 2015 - 09:37 by Graham Miller

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The world of online shopping is plagued by a raft of phoney reviews which can be very misleading for consumers, according to research conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which was published last week.

Major retailers that offer shopping online alongside customer reviews, including the likes of TripAdvisor and Amazon, were found to be especially susceptible to this type of activity.

It is not just the case that certain businesses are planting positive reviews of their own products and services in order to make them appear to have found favour with consumers, but also rival firms posting negative reviews, to skew ratings against the competition, according to BBC News.

There is not a huge amount that the retailers themselves can do to prevent fake or doctored reviews being posted, although analysts argue that some sites are worse than others when it comes to filtering reviews.

In particular, there is the argument that review sites deliberately give positive views more weight, enabling them to enhance the profile of items for sale in an underhanded way, because this will earn them an increase in sales.

Each year it is estimated that £23 billion worth of consumer spending in the UK is impacted by review ratings, with just over half of people questioned in the study stating that they take reviews into account before they make a purchase via safe shopping online.

Fake reviews can be very damaging, because if a consumer buys a product on the strength of its rating, only to find out that it does not live up to the hype, they may come to distrust retailers.

In short, it makes sense for people to take online reviews with a pinch of salt and perhaps look out for professional, independent reviews to avoid being duped.