Market authority to fine businesses for fake likes, reviews, followers

The Dutch authority on consumer and markets launched an investigation into companies who use fake likes and fake reviews online, and companies who sell these fake responses. According to the ACM, these fake responses are used to manipulate the image of the company, product or service. "This misleads consumers about the quality or popularity of a company, product or service," the ACM said on Thursday.

Fake reviews are also used by companies to put competitors in a bad light, according to the ACM. The damage this caused to online advertisers is estimated to be at least 1.2 billion euros worldwide, the authority said.

"The deliberate use of fake reviews, fake likes, and fake followers damages consumer confidence in the internet as a marketplace," ACM director Edwin van Houten said. "Consumers should be able to rely on the information they find online and base their purchase on. In addition, using misleading assessments can lead to unfair competition between companies."

ACM will track down companies who sell these fake responses and instruct them to stop their practices. The ACM will also confiscate their customer files, to track down companies who made use of fake responses to mislead consumers about their products. They will also receive a warning. Failure to stop this practice will result in fines, the ACM said.