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Fake Reviews: UK Legislation is Coming

Any company can easily and cheaply exaggerate their popularity and trustworthiness with hundreds of fake reviews, and many do. Up until recently, there have been no consequences for this unethical practice. But now, in the UK and many countries across the world, legislation is coming.

Chances are if you’ve read reviews you may have spotted some that look like this:

Screenshot of Google reviews showing several reviews for a restaurant that all have a curly brace at the end

Something is off – but often it’s hard to tell what. In this case it’s fairly obvious. These reviews were purchased and the review faker has left a “}” at the end of each review to signal to the restaurant owner that those reviews were purchased (and are due a payment). Typically each one of these reviews costs between £2 and £5 and are purchased in bulk.

This may be simple to spot, but the problem is that in time these obviously-fake reviews will become buried deep in history while their 5 stars still contribute to the score.

We’ve become resigned to this state of affairs. Fake news, fake dating profiles, fake reviews, fake products, fake companies. Since the advent of the internet, knowing who you can trust has been a pervasive problem.

Review fakery is becoming more sophisticated and it’s increasingly difficult to tell which reviews are real and which are fake. Modern fake review techniques range from hiring fake review brokers to using AI to write reviews. Even marketing and PR agencies will write fake reviews on behalf of grim-faced clients.

Nowadays any unscrupulous company can easily and cheaply exaggerate their popularity and trustworthiness with hundreds of fake reviews, and unfortunately many do.

Map of the world highlighting the countries that have upcoming legislation

Upcoming legislation countries

But this must be illegal, right? Yes, but they currently fall under outdated ‘false advertising’ laws which are rarely enforced.

But not all hope is lost.

Review-specific legislation is coming. In Ireland, the Consumer Rights Act 2022 has already been signed into law. It prohibits businesses from posting false reviews or paying someone to do so on their behalf. More countries are in the process of making review fakery illegal.

This list includes India, the United States, the European Union, Australia and the United Kingdom.

In April 2022 the UK government announced the DMCC Act which is forthcoming legislation to tackle the increasing prevalence of fake reviews.

Here’s our analysis of the legislation.

What is a fake review?

A fake review is any action taken by a business to artificially increase its own review rating or negatively affect the rating of a competitor. This can be done manually by the businesses themselves or on a broader scale by a fake review broker, marketing agency, or even with the help of bots and computer-generated reviews.

Offending businesses can be fined up to 10% of their global turnover. Individuals can be fined up to £300,000.

Fake Review Legislation in the UK

The issue of fake reviews prompted the government to issue new legislation targeting fake reviews and other consumer protection issues. The legislation will give The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) power to crack down on review fakers.

This new law is designed to protect consumers and instil more trust between them and businesses. The DMCC Act is expected to become law in the summer of 2024.

The legislation will make it illegal for businesses to pay someone to write or host fake reviews, and review websites will have to take reasonable steps to ensure the reviews they host are genuine.

When the new legislation is introduced, the CMA will be able to directly enforce this law, which includes issuing whopping fines of up to 10% of turnover.

So with all this in mind, it is unsurprising that legislation is coming. In Ireland, the Consumer Rights Act 2022 has already been signed into law which prohibits businesses to post false reviews or pay someone to do so. With more countries announcing intentions to pass their own legislation, UK legislation is no longer a question of what, but when, and brands will need to be prepared.

FAQs: The Legislation Explained

Written by Ella Patenall on January 6, 2023 - Updated on December 13, 2023