An EU-wide sweep of websites used by consumers has found that more than half could be violating EU law, due to the way they present online consumer reviews.
The screening process raised doubts about the reliability of online consumer reviews on almost two-thirds of the sites checked.
The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive requires that truthful information is presented to consumers, to allow an informed choice.
‘Call to action’
The European Commission coordinated the screening action, under which 26 member states screened 223 major websites for misleading consumer reviews.
The sites included online shops, marketplaces, booking websites, search engines and comparison-service sites.
The commission said that, in 144 of the 223 websites checked, authorities could not confirm that these traders were doing enough to ensure that reviews were posted by people that used the product or service that they reviewed.
Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders described the results of the process as “a clear call to action”, adding that the commission would ensure that EU law was respected.
The screening process also found that almost half of websites did not inform consumers how reviews were collected and processed. Only 84 websites made such information accessible to consumers on the review page itself, while the rest mentioned it in ‘small print’, such as their legal terms and conditions.
Just over half of the websites did not contain information about how fake reviews were prevented, while 176 of the sites did not mention that incentivised reviews were prohibited by their internal policies.
The commission said national authorities would now contact the traders concerned to rectify their websites and, if necessary, initiate enforcement actions according to their national procedures.