The UK warns of tough new penalties for writing or hosting fake reviews, including fines of up to 10 percent of global turnover.
Sites that host reviews will be required to take reasonable steps to verify that they are genuine, and companies will be specifically prohibited from paying for fake reviews. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will receive new powers to enforce the rules by directly imposing financial penalties and awarding compensation, rather than forcing whistleblowers to go to court.
The ad also covers ‘sign-up traps’, in which companies make it difficult to get out of a contract. They will now be required to provide clearer information to consumers before they sign a subscription contract, allowing them to opt out of a contract in a simple, cost-effective and timely manner.
They should also issue a reminder to consumers that a free trial or low-cost introductory offer is coming to an end, as well as a reminder before a contract automatically renews for a new term.
“You will no longer visit a restaurant with five-star reviews only to find a burnt lasagna or get stuck in a subscription with no end in sight,” says consumer minister Paul Scully.
“Consumers deserve better, and most companies that do the right thing deserve protection from dishonest marketers who undermine them.”
The move follows a CMA investigation launched last summer into Amazon and Google. The CMA was concerned that companies were doing too little to detect misleading reviews or suspicious behavior patterns, or remove them when found.
However, earlier this year, an investigation by the consumer group Which? found that fake reviews were still rife in the UK, with Facebook groups with hundreds of thousands of members acting as “review factories”, offering refunds for Amazon products in exchange for five-star reviews.
“It is very positive to see measures to tackle the onslaught of fake reviews that undermine trust in online shopping and stronger powers for the CMA to protect consumers from rogue companies that consistently break the law, including the ability to fine companies directly,” says Rocío Concha. , Which? director of policy and promotion.
“The impact of these scam practices is huge. It is currently too complicated and lengthy a process for the CMA to hold companies to account.” The new measures will form part of a Consumer and Competition Bill to be announced in the Queen’s Speech next month.