Consumer protectionFake and manipulated user reviews in online shopping

The German Federal Cartel Office presented the results of its sector inquiry into customer reviews on the Internet today. The final report explains the background to fake customer reviews and provides practical solutions.

For this inquiry, more than 60 large Internet portals and platforms from 16 different sectors, including Amazon, Google, Ebay and Facebook, have been surveyed since May 2019, and numerous other market participants have been asked to comment.

These are further details:

  • The sector inquiry was able to uncover some falsifications and manipulations in customer reviews, which are considered violations of the fair trading law.

  • Since the German Federal Cartel Office has no enforcement powers with regards to consumer protection, these deficiencies must be solved by the market participants themselves or through civil law proceedings.

  • Customer reviews on the Internet are an important source of information for consumers, although their willingness to post reviews on a regular basis is low. Customer reviews are also very important for platforms and service providers.

  • According to the German Federal Cartel Office, the resulting gap in supply and demand for such reviews should be closed by open and uninfluenced incentives to submit reviews or by product testers who are clearly recognizable as such.

  • Hidden product tests that are not recognizable to consumers are particularly problematic. In addition, the portals' measures against improper fake reviews, for instance via pre-filtering, were found to be mostly insufficient.

  • Transparency towards consumers on how ratings and reviews were created should play more of a central role.

Andreas Mundt, President of the German Federal Cartel Office, commented: "Customer reviews are a very important decision-making aid for online purchases. Unfortunately, so-called fake reviews are a widespread phenomenon. It is very difficult for consumers to distinguish real from fake reviews. In the future, sales, booking and rating portals or even search engines will have to take on more responsibility and exhaust all possibilities to track down and delete fake reviews using technical filter and analysis methods."

Source: Federal Cartel Office

More information, final report and video for consumer