Facebook reviews or FAKEbook reviews?

Did you know that the average UK household spends around £900 each year after being influenced by online reviews? But how many of them are actually genuine?

A new report by the consumer group Which? suggests that Facebook is still being used by people arranging fake five-star product reviews. The report found 14 groups on Facebook  that were centred around trading reviews for cash or free products - including earbuds, fitness watches and a solar-powered sprinkler.

When a researcher had contacted a member of one of the most popular groups and told them they liked some of the products shared there, they had been told to buy one of the products and they would be refunded if they gave it a five-star review.

Which? first exposed such groups in 2018, and as previously reported in The Customer Service Blog, in 2022 the government proposed new rules about online reviews, including making it "clearly illegal" to pay someone to write or host fake reviews. The new rules are expected to form part of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, due to be published by the Government soon.

According to the Which? Policy and Advocacy Director Rocio Concha: "Despite previous interventions by the regulator, our latest findings suggest an industry dedicated to fake-review trading continues to thrive on Facebook. Consumers are exposed to misleading information on some of the world's biggest review and shopping platforms."


What are Facebook doing about this?

Facebook said it was investing in new technologies to weed out fake reviews and a representative from Meta (owners of Facebook) stated that: "Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews. We've removed the groups shared with us, for violating our policies."


What about other online platforms?

Which? said that their researchers had found 14 Facebook groups offering cash or products in exchange for reviews on Amazon, Google or Trustpilot. In total, there were more than 62,000 members across the groups.

The Competition and Markets Authority investigated Amazon and Google over concerns fake five-star reviews could be misleading shoppers in 2021.

Amazon has long combated fake reviews on its platform and, in July, took legal action against the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups.

An Amazon official said "in the last few weeks" it had launched further legal action against more than 20 websites dealing in fake reviews.

They claim that: "By taking this action against fraudsters, we are going after the source of the problem and shutting down these fake-review businesses."

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