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Harsh New Penalties For Fake Reviews, Subscription Traps

Harsh new penalties for writing or hosting fake online product or service reviews are set to be introduced, as well as fines for those who trap consumers into subscriptions that are near impossible to cancel (we’re looking at you, Amazon Prime!).

The Competition and Markets Authority in the UK will be given new powers to directly impose penalties for these actions, including fines of up to 10 per cent of global turnover. The current system requires the CMA to funnel such complaints through the court system

So-called “subscription traps” will be targeted, with companies now required to make it obvious that users are entering into a contractual subscription, and must remind users that a low-cost or free trial is coming to an end, or if a subscription is set to auto-renew.

“No longer will you visit a five-star-reviewed restaurant only to find a burnt lasagne or get caught in a subscription in which there’s no end in sight,” says consumer minister Paul Scully.

“Consumers deserve better, and the majority of businesses out there doing the right thing deserve protection from rogue traders undermining them.”

An investigation by UK consumer group Which? last month found nine of the ten-highest ranked headphones on Amazon climbed the ranks due to fake reviews, originally written for products as varied and unrelated as beach umbrellas, jigsaw puzzles, and soft toys.

“It’s very positive to see action to tackle the avalanche of fake reviews that undermine confidence in online shopping and tougher powers for the CMA to protect consumers from rogue companies that consistently flout the law – including the ability to fine firms directly,” says Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy.

“The impact of these rip-off practices is enormous. It is currently a far too complicated and lengthy process for the CMA to hold businesses to account.”



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