The big picture: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a UK antitrust organization, has been investigating the issue of fake review trading by many of the world's largest communications platforms in a case ongoing since June 2019, previously focused on Facebook, Instagram, and eBay. Now Amazon and Google are in their sights.

Thus far the CMA has received cooperation from the bodies involved in this case, going so far as to publish updates about steps taken and a follow-up article calling the action from Facebook and eBay "a win for online shoppers."

In the newest leg of this investigation, the CMA is launching "a formal probe" into Amazon and Google to determine if they have breached the UK's consumer standards.

In the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, it is deemed unlawful for one to falsely represent oneself as a consumer which is precisely what is happening any time a fake review is left on one of these sites. Within the same guidance, some of the onus of regulating these fake reviews was placed on the platform hosting them as well, demanding professional diligence towards consumers.

"Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations. Equally, it's simply not fair if some businesses can fake 5-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out."

While Amazon and Google definitely aren't the ones trading in fake reviews, the CMA is investigating whether or not these tech titans have been taking "insufficient action to protect shoppers."

In other instances of these probes within the same case, we have seen the CMA come forward and announce that the other companies involved were being cooperative. The lack of said statement in this round of investigations, along with arguably more aggressive wording in this newest announcement, gives some reason to believe that Amazon and Google have been less than agreeable to the CMA.

"We are investigating concerns that Amazon and Google have not been doing enough to prevent or remove fake reviews to protect customers and honest businesses. It's important that these tech platforms take responsibility and we stand ready to take action if we find that they are not doing enough."

The investigation is part of a larger initiative by the CMA for establishing a "pro-competition regulatory regime." If this initiative is successful, there could be benefits to small competitors to these companies worldwide.

Image Credit: Dylan Gillis