Amazon is being deluged with fake tech reviews that propel unknown brands into top-rated lists, research by Which? has found.
The consumer watchdog discovered highly-ranked products in categories such as headphones a fitness trackers had accrued huge amounts of unverified five-star reviews, sometimes in a short space of time.
Which? warned its findings showed the online retail giants appeared to be “losing the battle” against fake reviews that “seriously undermined” its rating system.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, 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.”
Amazon responded saying it is investing “significant resources” into the issue and developing artificial intelligence to root out fake reviews. Once an Amazon customer has searched for a product they can then filter the results by metrics such as price and average customer review.
Amazon allows people to ‘verify’ their reviews by showing that they have previously purchased the product they are rating via the site.
Which? found that top results for categories such as headphones, dash cams, fitness trackers and smart watches, were dominated by unknown brands with names such as ITSHINY, Vogek and Aitalk.
In many cases it said these had amassed thousands of unverified reviews, many of which were five-star that had sometimes appeared within 24 hours.
When researchers searched for headphones they found all the products on the first page of results were from unknown brands and almost nine in 10 of more than 12,000 reviews for these products were from unverified purchasers.
Which? found one set of headphones, by the brand Celebrat, had 439 unverified reviews, all of which were five-star and arrived on the same day.
The analysis of other categories such as smartwatches found that unverified reviews making up 99 percent of the ratings for the top four products.
Other categories where Which? discovered a similar pattern included action cameras and wireless security equipment.
The watchdog’s findings come as customer reviews are becoming increasingly influential in online shopping decisions. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) now estimates that £23 billion a year of UK consumer spending is potentially influenced by online reviews.