Facebook and eBay have taken action to combat the trade in fake and misleading online reviews after pressure from the UK competition watchdog.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Facebook had removed 188 groups and disabled 24 user accounts – and eBay has permanently banned 140 users.
It added that both companies had pledged to put in place measures that will help prevent further such content appearing.
Facebook has also committed to investigate after the watchdog found further examples of fake reviews for sale via the company’s Instagram platform, the watchdog added.
The action announced on Wednesday was in response to the CMA highlighting concerns in the summer that there was a “thriving marketplace” for such reviews.
It identified eBay listings and Facebook groups where people offered to write fake reviews or businesses recruited people to write them on popular shopping and review sites.
The CMA did not allege that the platforms were intentionally allowing the content to appear, but said they should take urgent action to stop the reviews being bought and sold.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Fake reviews are really damaging to shoppers and businesses alike.
“Millions of people base their shopping decisions on reviews, and if these are misleading or untrue, then shoppers could end up being misled into buying something that isn’t right for them – leaving businesses who play by the rules missing out.
“We’re pleased that Facebook and eBay are doing the right thing by committing to tackle this problem and helping to keep their sites free from posts selling fake reviews.”
The CMA says more than three-quarters of people are influenced by reviews when they shop online and billions of pounds are spent every year based on write-ups of products or services.
Fake and misleading reviews are illegal under consumer protection law.
Ebay said: “We maintain zero-tolerance for fake or misleading reviews and will continue to take action against any seller that breaches our user polices.
“We welcome today’s CMA report, as well as their acknowledgement of our ongoing enforcement work on this issue.”
Facebook said: “Fraudulent activity is not allowed on Facebook or Instagram, including offering or trading fake reviews.
“While we have invested heavily to prevent this kind of activity across our services, we know there is more work to do and are working with the CMA to address this issue.”