Fake reviews for products on Amazon are being sold “in bulk” online in what has become a “widespread fake reviews industry.”
The consumer group Which? has discovered at least ten websites that are selling fake reviews online in exchange for £5 each, as well as in exchange for free or discounted products, according to a report by BBC News.
There are also “packages” of fake reviews available for merchants to buy for about £15 individually, as well as bulk packages starting at £620 for 50 reviews, and £8,000 for 1,000 reviews.
Which? also suggested that five of the businesses selling fake reviews had more than 702,000 so-called “product reviewers” on their books. These product reviewers can even take part in “loyalty schemes,” earning themselves premium goods.
One of the websites also offered its reviewers advice on how to write reviews that will not make Amazon suspicious. In some cases, these advisers had criteria for reviewers to meet, which included leaving reviews that were at least two sentences long, or including photos.
The consumer group is now calling on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) — a government agency in the United Kingdom — to look into the selling of fake reviews.
“The regulator must crack down on bad actors and hold sites to account if they fail to keep their users safe,” said Which?’s Natalie Hitchins. “If it is unable to do so, the government must urgently strengthen online consumer protections.”
Hitchins added that “Amazon and other online platforms must do more to proactively prevent fake reviews infiltrating their sites so that consumers can trust the integrity of their reviews.”
An Amazon spokesman said that the company has worked with other tech firms to “report bad actors,” but said that online retailers “cannot do this alone,” adding that more power should be given to regulators such as the CMA.
The UK regulator warned last May that it would “not hesitate” to take action if sites were disobeying the law. Such action could include taking major retailers to court, reports BBC.