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eBay shoppers ‘duped into buying poor products due to flawed review system’

The consumer group is calling for the regulator to extend its scrutiny of online platforms.

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(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

eBay shoppers are being misled into purchasing poor and counterfeit products because of a flaw in the website’s review system, according to Which?

The consumer group claims that sellers are able to easily exploit the shopping platform’s review system to attach glowing reviews on inferior products.

When adding items for sale to eBay, people can use a product ID which pulls relevant information from a central database to make the listing process simpler, including reviews.

As a result, reviews from all listings claiming to be the same item can be shared, regardless of the seller or the condition of the product.

Which? says an investigation it carried out uncovered a number of product listings that shared the same reviews, despite clearly looking different from each other in images posted by the seller.

The research does not fully consider that there are distinctions between product reviews (which provide buyers with a holistic review of the same product), and seller feedback (which can be used to see specific reviews of a seller’s performance and may reflect the item’s condition)eBay

Among them were hundreds of listings for counterfeit Samsung chargers that had been subject to a Europe-wide recall alert but by adding the same product ID as potentially legitimate chargers, sellers were able to adopt four and five star reviews on listing pages.

Which? ordered 20 Apple and Samsung accessories, such as chargers and USB cables, which were supposed to be official and shared the same reviews.

They claim that all fell short of what a buyer would have expected based on the listing while some were entirely fake.

The consumer group is now calling for current regulation to be extended so that online platforms face scrutiny for flawed online review systems.

“Our investigation has uncovered yet another example of online reviews being manipulated to mislead people,” said Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?.

“eBay’s product review system is confusing for consumers and could even direct them towards counterfeit or dangerous products sold by unscrupulous sellers.

“Online reviews influence billions of pounds of consumer spending each year.

“The CMA must now investigate how fake and misleading reviews are duping online shoppers, taking the strongest possible action against sites that fail to tackle the problem.”

eBay
Which? ordered 20 Apple and Samsung accessories, such as chargers and USB cables, which were supposed to be official and shared the same reviews (Tim Goode/PA)

Earlier this year, Facebook and eBay signed up to agreements to better identify, investigate and respond to fake and misleading reviews after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) told them to address the issue.

eBay responded to the latest report saying it would investigate Which’s claims on these items, but disputed some aspects of the consumer group’s findings.

“The research does not fully consider that there are distinctions between product reviews (which provide buyers with a holistic review of the same product), and seller feedback (which can be used to see specific reviews of a seller’s performance and may reflect the item’s condition),” a spokesman for the firm said.

“In addition, all listings have a ‘report’ feature. Any user can use this to report a concern with a listing, its seller, or its reviews.

“eBay enforces its product safety policy at a global level using block filter algorithms that prevent unsafe products being listed and our international security teams also work around the clock to help safeguard our marketplace.”

PA