Majority of platforms violate EU law with fake reviews
According to research by the European Commission almost two thirds of online shops and platforms triggered doubts about the reliability of consumer reviews. In 144 out of the 223 websites checked, authorities couldn’t confirm that businesses were doing enough to ensure authentic reviews.
The European Commission and the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) have screened websites on online consumer reviews. The CPC is a network of authorities responsible for EU consumer protection laws.
‘Up to 71% of consumers rely on reviews when booking holiday accommodations.’
The sweep was carried out after the Market Monitoring Survey 2020 showed that consumers rely on reviews when making purchasing decisions. Up to 71 percent of consumers consider reviews as important when booking a holiday accommodation.
223 major websites checked
Authorities of 26 Member States, Iceland and Norway checked 223 major websites for misleading consumer reviews. Almost two thirds of online shops, marketplaces, booking websites, search engines and comparison service sites triggered doubts about the reliability of the reviews.
‘Online businesses must provide consumers with clear information on the reliability of reviews.’
Of the 223 websites that were checked for 144 of them authorities couldn’t confirm that these merchants were taking action to make sure that reviews were posted by consumers that actually used the product or service reviewed. “Consumers very often rely on online reviews when shopping or booking online. I don’t want consumers to be tricked. I want them to be able to interact in a trustworthy environment. I insist on one specific point: online businesses must provide consumers with clear and visible information on the reliability of such reviews. Today’s results are a clear call for action. We will ensure EU law is respected”, said Didier Reynders, Commission for Justice.
No information about review collecting
At least 104 websites do not inform users how reviews are collected and processed. Only 84 websites mentioned that information on the review page itself, while others mention it in small print in their legal terms and conditions.
‘More than half of the website didn’t provide information about preventing fake reviews.’
Often, consumers have no possibility to verify the authenticity of reviews. More than half of the websites (118) didn’t contain information about how fake reviews are prevented. Furthermore, 176 of the websites don’t mention that incentivized reviews are prohibited or how they ensure that these reviews are flagged as incentivized.
55% violate EU law
As a result of the sweep, consumer protection authorities concluded that 55 percent of the checked websites violate the Unfair Commerce Practices Directive, which requires website to present truthful information to consumers to ensure an informed decision. As of May 28 this year, legislation will apply that makes it prohibited to sell, buy and submit false consumer reviews in order to promote products.
The European Commission states that national authorities will take next steps. Authorities will contact the merchants concerned to rectify their website. If needed, they will also start enforcement actions according to national procedures.