UK businesses caught buying fake five-star Google reviews from firms found in search results

WION Web Team
London, United KingdomUpdated: Mar 10, 2021, 09:17 PM IST

File photo. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Google, on its part, says it has "significantly" invested in tech to tackle the issue.

A UK watchdog -- that goes by the name of Which? -- has exposed a web of paid-for reviewers providing fake reviews to dozens of British businesses listings on Google.

The consumer group set up a fake company and bought bogus five-star reviews as part of an investigation. Which? was then able to tie its sham "customers" to dozens of other highly-rated British firms, including a dentist and a stockbroker.

Google, on its part, says it has "significantly" invested in tech to tackle the issue.

Which? conducted its research by essentially setting up a "sting" operation to catch unscrupulous operators in the act. It created a fake business listing which it called "five-star reviews", and searched online for companies advertising paid-for Google reviews. It then spent $150 (£108) on their services.

The Google accounts, which were used to plant the fake reviews, had reviewed similar businesses all around the country. It also said that some fake reviews could have serious real-world consequences. 

When it presented Google with the findings, the fake sting company was immediately deleted, Which? said.

Google said that its policies ban fake reviews, and that it monitors the system for fraud around the clock, "using a combination of people and technology".

The UK watchdog, in its report, has called on the competition and markets authority (CMA) to take strong action against sites that host reviews if they find that they are failing to prevent fake reviews from flooding their platforms.

(with inputs)