Hundreds of products from unknown brands are being given fake five-star reviews on Amazon, according to an investigation from consumer champion Which?
Which? analysed reviews of hundreds of tech gadgets across 14 categories including headphones, dash cams, fitness trackers and smart watches.
It found that the site’s top-rated items in each category were frequently dominated by unknown brands (with names including ITSHINY, Vogek and Aitalk) where glowing reviews were often unverified – meaning there was no actual evidence that the reviewer had purchased and used the product.
Another red flag highlighted by Which? was where a suspiciously high number of five-star reviews had been written over a short period of time.
In a search for headphones all of the products on the first page were from unknown companies, with 87% of more than 12,000 reviews coming from unverified purchasers. Seven in 10 (71%) had perfect five-star ratings.
It cites one example of a pair of headphones from a brand called Celebrat. It had 439 five-star reviews – all unverified and all had been written on the same day.
Which? shared its findings on headphones with review experts ReviewMeta who believed every one of the five-star reviews was fake.
ReviewMeta said: “I am shocked we have seen so much of this on Amazon – seems so obvious and easy and easy to prevent.”
Similar results emerged when Which? looked at smart watches, fitness trackers and wireless security cameras.
However, the problem was not found to affect all electronic appliances. Only 8% of TVs and tablets were from unknown brands compared to just 4% of radios.
In the age of online shopping, online reviews have become an important part of the decision-making process for consumers and the Competition and Markets Authority estimates that £23 billion of spending is driven by online reviews each year.
Amazon says it uses a variety of techniques to spot fake reviews including automated technology and investigation teams. It also says it works with social media sites to block fake reviews at source.
However, Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services says the online is still fighting a losing battle.
"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.”
As a result of its findings Which? is urging consumers to take care when purchasing from brands they are not familiar with – even if the reviews are positive.
How to spot a fake review
Which? has the following tips for spotting fake reviews:
Take extra care with brands you don’t recognise. If you aren’t familiar with the brand, research shows reviews are more likely to be fake
- Look at the number of reviews. Be suspicious if there is a particularly large number of reviews and even more so if they are all positive.
- Look for repetition. This includes repeated titles, phrases and reviewer names.
- Use the filter to check for verified reviews. If a review is unverified Amazon has no evidence that the reviewer purchased the product from the site and as such is more likely to be fake.
- Check dates. Be wary if lots of reviews were written on the same day or over a short period of time – especially if they are unverified.
- Read the seller profile. Look out for foreign locations, strange business names and contact details. See if the seller has any negative reviews too.