The European Commission and national consumer protection authorities published the results of an EU-wide sweep of websites on online consumer reviews on 20 January. The results are mostly against the protection of virtual consumers on the web.
Under the coordination of the Commission, authorities from 26 Member States, including Romania and Iceland and Norway respectively, checked 223 major websites for misleading consumer reviews.
Nearly two-thirds of online stores and markets, booking sites, search engines and comparison service sites analyzed raised doubts about the reliability of reviews: on 144 of the 223 sites checked, authorities did not could confirm that those traders made sufficient efforts to ensure that the reviews were genuine, namely that they were posted by consumers who actually used the product or service they rated.
Findings after checking websites for online reviews:
• 104 of the 223 sites examined do not inform consumers about how reviews are collected and processed . Only 84 sites make such information accessible to consumers right on the review page, while the rest mention it in “small print”, for example in the legal terms and conditions section.
• 118 sites did not contain information on how to prevent false reviews . In these cases, consumers will not be able to verify that the reviews were written by consumers who actually used the product or service.
• 176 of the websites do not mention that stimulated reviews (which are financially rewarding, for example) are prohibited by their internal policies or, if not, do not mention how the sites ensure that there is an indication that reviews are stimulated .cpc_regulation_factsheet_for_eu_consumer_protection
Consumer protection authorities have concluded that at least 55% of the websites checked could infringe the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive , which requires consumers to be provided with truthful information to enable them to make informed choices. Authorities also had doubts about the remaining 18% .
The national authorities will contact the traders concerned to rectify their websites and, if necessary, to initiate enforcement actions in accordance with their national procedures. The Commission will continue to work with the CPC (network of public authorities responsible for enforcing consumer protection law) on this important issue and will support national authorities in their enforcement efforts.