Facebook and eBay ban users trading fake reviews after warning from the UK

Key Points
  • Facebook and eBay have signed agreements with Britain's competition watchdog promising to tackle misleading reviews.
  • The regulator said Facebook pulled 188 groups and 24 users while eBay permanently banned 140 users involved in selling fake write-ups.
  • But it says it's also discovered "new examples" of fake reviews being sold on Facebook's Instagram.
A mousepad with the Facebook logo is seen at Facebook's new headquarters at Rathbone Place in central London.
Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP via Getty Images

Facebook and eBay have removed hundreds of groups and accounts engaged in trading fake reviews, after the U.K. antitrust regulator flagged concerns over them in June.

Britain's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Wednesday that the two firms had signed agreements with the watchdog promising to improve on finding and blocking misleading reviews about products and services.

In the summer, the CMA claimed to have found "troubling evidence" of a growing marketplace for false reviews. The regulator said it found over 100 listings on eBay offering to sell fake write-ups between November 2018 and June 2019, and 26 Facebook groups with users offering to write fake reviews.

Addressing action taken by the two firms, the CMA said Wednesday that Facebook had pulled 188 groups and 24 users accounts from its platform while eBay had permanently banned 140 users involved in selling fake reviews.

"Fake reviews are really damaging to shoppers and businesses alike," Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said in a statement. "Millions of people base their shopping decisions on reviews, and if these are misleading or untrue, then shoppers could end up being misled into buying something that isn't right for them — leaving businesses who play by the rules missing out."

Coscelli added: "We're pleased that Facebook and eBay are doing the right thing by committing to tackle this problem and helping to keep their sites free from posts selling fake reviews."

But the CMA said it also discovered "new examples" of fake reviews being sold on Facebook's Instagram. The regulator said it had reported these to Facebook and that the company is investigating them. It also stressed that it's not alleging Facebook or eBay are intentionally allowing the proliferation of misleading scores.

Misleading scores and write-ups have proven a big problem in e-commerce, with Amazon being a prime target for merchants looking to hype up their products online. U.K. consumer rights campaigners Which? found Facebook groups with tens of thousands of people generating "verified purchase" reviews on the shopping site.

Trustpilot, a business that's in the business of hosting user-generated reviews, has faced similar problems as businesses try to game the system by using its flagging tools to suppress negative reviews. The company has since implemented new transparency features designed to tackle the issue.