Amazon shoppers are being conned by thousands of fake ‘five-star’ reviews for unknown tech brands, says Which?
- Which? checked out hundreds of tech products on Amazon in 14 categories
- It found that many five-star reviews were being made for unknown brands
- Which? found that they had no record of success or independent assessment
- The watchdog said reviews could mislead shoppers into wasting their money
Fake reviews on little known tech brands and products, many made in China, are skewing customer searches and choices on Amazon, it is claimed.
An investigation by Which? found many products that have no record of success or independent assessment carry five-star customer reviews, which could mislead shoppers into wasting their money.
The consumer group checked out hundreds of tech products in 14 popular categories, including headphones, dash cams, fitness trackers and smartwatches, checking for tell-tale signs of suspicious reviews.
Fake reviews on little known tech brands and products, many made in China, are skewing customer searches and choices on Amazon, it is claimed. Stock image
It found that the top-rated items were dominated by unknown brands with names such as ITSHINY, Vogek and Aitalk, which in many cases had thousands of unverified reviews, where there was no evidence the person had bought or used the product.
The evidence suggests Amazon’s efforts to protect customers by weeding out fake or misleading reviews are ineffective.
Some 97 per cent of shoppers rely on online customer reviews to help make a purchase, which mean the fakes are a serious problem because customers are misled into buying poor products.
The Competition & Markets Authority has raised concerns that misleading reviews can skew consumer spending worth £23billion a year across everything from home products to hotels and restaurants.
Natalie Hitchins of Which? said: ‘Our research suggests that Amazon is losing the battle against fake reviews with shoppers bombarded by dubious comments aimed at artificially boosting products from unknown brands.
‘Amazon must do more to purge its websites of unreliable and fake reviews if it is to maintain the trust of its millions of customers.
‘To avoid being misled and possibly buying a dud product, customers should always take reviews with a pinch of salt and look to independent and trustworthy sources when researching a purchase.’
The Which? researchers found that many products had a suspiciously high number of five-star ratings that had been dumped on to Amazon’s review pages in a short space of time, which is a red flag suggesting the reviews are fake.
For example, a search for headphones based on customer reviews and ratings was topped by unknown brands where almost nine in ten of more than 12,000 reviews were from unverified purchasers.
Seven out of ten had suspiciously perfect five-star customer ratings and, bizarrely, some even included reviews for unrelated products such as soap dispensers.
One set of headphones, by unknown brand Celebrat, had 439 reviews which were all five-star, all unverified, and all arrived on the same day.
Which? shared its findings with review experts ReviewMeta, who concluded that every five-star unverified review of the top ten pairs of headphones was fake.
A spokesman for ReviewMeta said: ‘I’m shocked. We’ve been seeing this so much on Amazon. It seems so obvious and easy to prevent.’
An examination of the authenticity of one of the unknown headphone brands, Cquang, suggested it barely seemed to exist.
For example, the business did not appear to be based at its claimed head office address. This was repeated for many of the other unknown brands.
An analysis of smartwatches found every device on the first page of results when sorted by average customer review was from an unknown brand. Unverified reviews made up 99 per cent of the reviews for the top four products.
Three smartwatches had a five-star average customer rating. More than half of the reviews for the Galso Kids Smartwatch had appeared in one 24-hour period in March.
The pattern was repeated with action cameras, fitness trackers and wireless security cameras – with more than nine in ten of the top-rated products in each category made by unknown brands and boosted by a deluge of dubious reviews. Which? was unable to establish the source of the unverified reviews.
Which? is advising shoppers to take extra care buying products from brands they haven’t heard of, even if they have positive customer reviews, because these are more likely to be fake or incentivised. Where possible, look for thorough and independent reviews from credible sources.
Investigation found many products have no record of success or independent assessment. One of the reviews is pictured
One set of headphones, by unknown brand Celebrat, had 439 reviews which were all five-star, all unverified, and all arrived on the same day. Stock picture shows Celebrat headphones, which are not the ones reviewed
Amazon said it invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews. It confirmed that it has clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and it suspends, bans, and takes legal action on those that violate guidelines.
The company said it uses a combination of techniques including investigation teams and automated technology to spot fake reviews.
It confirmed that it uses machine learning tech to analyse reviews 24/7 as well as working with social media sites to block fake reviews at the source. It said customers can help by reporting any requests they get to manipulate reviews to Amazon customer service.
Which? was unable to contact the unknown brands identified in its investigation.
Two weeks ago, Which? revealed how many genuine customer reviews on the websites of Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World and John Lewis, gave five-star ratings to products it had tested and rated as a ‘Don’t Buy’.
The customer reviews were often posted soon after purchase and took into account things like speed of delivery. Which? said these were not as valuable as the independent and long-running product tests it carries out.
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