Competition Authority: Problems with consumer reviews across the EU

English2022. feb. 24.Növekedé

Most of the rating systems used by retailers do not accurately reflect consumer opinions in the online space, according to a joint investigation by European competition authorities, in which the Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) also participated.

In early January, GVH released the domestic results of the EU-wide survey reviewing the display of consumer opinions in online commerce. The European Commission, which coordinated the joint inquiry conducted by 26 Member States plus Iceland and Norway, recently released the results of the European survey

In total, 223 major websites were audited for their consumer rating systems. In 144 cases, the authorities were unable to verify that the consumer reviews published were authentic - that is, they were posted by consumers who had actually used the product or service.

104 websites did not provide any information at all about how consumer reviews are collected and processed. Only 84 websites made this information accessible on the review page itself, while other retailers only mentioned it in “small print”, for example in their legal terms and conditions. 

118 websites did not contain information on how it prevents fake reviews from being posted on their site. 176 of the websites did not mention whether their internal policies prohibit reviews written by consumers in exchange for an incentive (such as a financial reward) and, if not, how they ensure that these are kept separate from reviews written in exchange for no incentive. 

The authorities involved in the investigation concluded that at least 55 percent of the websites inspected could be engaged in unfair commercial practices and they had reservations about a further 18 percent. 

Last year, GVH made recommendations to market players on the review of the consumer rating systems of Hungarian food delivery platforms, and made further proposals following the completion of the European fast track inquiry to ensure that Hungarian consumers are faced with transparent, clear and traceable rating systems online.

GVH is a regular participant in consumer protection actions coordinated by the European Commission, which is due to the fact that the experience and achievements of the Hungarian authority are recognized internationally. GVH gives priority to the investigation of consumer complaints and contributes significantly to the predictability of the Hungarian consumer protection system, which is based on four pillars (Hungarian Competition Authority, Hungarian National Bank, Ministry for Innovation and Technology, government agencies). The Competition Authority represented the European Coronavirus Working Group at the world conference of the largest international umbrella organization of consumer protection authorities, but it also maintains extensive contacts with domestic consumer protection and advertising organizations. GVH's experts are also regular speakers at consumer protection conferences on topical issues such as the phenomenon of greenwashing.