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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is to issue a report into online reviews and endorsements following a call for information in February this year.

The inquiry has been launched into fears that thousands of families are being deceived every year by fake website reviews and bogus paid-for endorsements.

The business regulator said an initial study on the issue had unearthed evidence that restaurants and other firms were posting fake reviews in sufficient numbers to warrant a formal investigation.

Firms are being accused of paying individuals to post positive reviews online with celebrities and bloggers criticised for endorsing products online without making it clear that they are being financially rewarded.

Nisha Arora, a senior director at the CMA, said: “Millions of people look at online reviews and endorsements before making decisions such as where to stay on holiday, or which plumber to use.

“We are committed to ensuring that consumers’ trust in these important information tools is maintained, and will take enforcement action where necessary to tackle unlawful practices.”

Trustpilot, a global market leader in the online reviews industry with over 10,000 new consumers joining every day, has been a key contributor to the research.

James Westlake, UK VP of Trustpilot added: “Word of mouth has always been the most powerful way to make or break a brand.  With the growth of online reviews the chance to embrace this potent force has never been greater. From florists to high street banks, people are voicing their opinions every day and disrupting the way companies react to and communicate with consumers.

“Like with any emerging technology issues of security and privacy are never far away.  We take fraudulent use of our reviews website very seriously and are committed to rooting out and preventing misuse.

“We applaud the CMA report for properly identifying the importance and potential of this market and for working in partnership with organisations such as Trustpilot to set industry benchmarks for best practice – ensuring consumer reviews can be trusted and best honour the wisdom of the crowd.”

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