WHEN buying online, many of us scroll down to read the reviews. But it seems Amazon has been flooded with thousands of fake five-star - and also one-star - reviews and the online retail giant has taken action.



It was reported by Which? consumer advocacy group as far back as April last year that Amazon was flooded by thousands of fake reviews offering five-star ratings, helping unknown brands find favour with shoppers. But concern is intensifying about the impact of fake reviews as online shopping soars during the pandemic.



Sellers were found to be listing products carrying as many as tens of thousands of positive - but unverified - reviews, with no need for the authors to prove that they had purchased the items at all. Which? uncovered more than 10,000 reviews from ‘purchasers’ on just 24 items it searched for in what it said was an “an easy-to-find red flag that highlights the scale of Amazon’s problem with fake reviews”.


And now?

It has emerged that Amazon has taken action. Saying it is “relentless” in dealing with the issue, it has deleted 20,000 reviews penned by its top 10 reviewers on the site after it was found that some of them appeared to be receiving free products in exchange for their five-star feedback. A spokesman said: “We want Amazon customers to shop with confidence, knowing that the reviews they read are authentic and relevant.”


Many items were from China?

The Amazon action followed an investigation by the Financial Times, which found that nine out of 10 of Amazon UK's top 10 reviewers were dabbling in suspicious activity - such as one person reviewing a vast range of products - and that the majority of five-star reviews were for Chinese products from essentially unknown companies. Researchers then found many of the same items in forums which were offering free products in exchange for good reviews. 


Reviews are influential?

A report by The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2015 found then that an estimated £23 billion a year of UK consumer spending is influenced by online reviews, with the report saying: "Consumers that use online reviews appear to trust them and they appear to be an important source of information for consumers' buying decisions.”


Now one-star reviews are a problem?

An investigation by BBC's Newsnight found that fake one-star feedback is also causing issues for sellers, impacting sales, evidently to boost sales of similar products by other retailers.


Amazon is not alone?

In January, Facebook and eBay signed up to agreements to better identify, investigate and deal with fake and manipulated reviews - which are illegal under consumer protection law - on its sites, following an investigation by the CMA that found "troubling evidence" of a thriving market place for false online reviews on both.



Which? Found last month that although eBay was making progress cracking down on listings selling five-star reviews, dozens of Facebook groups were continuing to trade in reviews with a number of ‘review groups’ openly asking for reviews in exchange for refunds or commission.


It comes as?

A new study by Retail Weekly found that amid the pandemic, more than half (53%) of consumers say they are still more likely to shop online even though non-essential shops have reopened.



As Which? calls on Facebook to step up, Amazon has said it suspends, bans and sues people who flout its rules.