UK watchdog steps up fight against fake reviews during lockdown

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Britain’s competition regulator said on Friday it has launched an investigation to ascertain whether measures taken by websites to fight fake reviews were enough to protect customers as they shop more online during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the probe would look into suspicious reviews from users, their manipulation by businesses and paid reviews, and added that it was not currently alleging that any website had acted illegally. 

“We will not hesitate to take further action if we find evidence that they (websites) aren’t doing what’s required under the law,” CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said.

Actions could include going to the courts, the CMA said, adding that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)’s photo-sharing social media app, Instagram, had pledged it would bolster its systems to detect and remove such reviews.

The CMA’s current investigation builds on its previous probe into fake reviews on Facebook and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY). 

Retail spending in Britain plunged by a fifth in April, but online non-food sales leapt by nearly 60%, as stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus prevented in-person visits to stores. 

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