New estimations from National Trading Standards (NTS) have sparked a warning to UK shoppers ahead of Christmas.

Shoppers across the country have bought an estimated 80 million products on the basis of positive reviews they have seen online only to be disappointed when they arrive.

NTS said consumer trust in online reviews is fuelling a surge in criminals selling poor quality goods and services.

Fake online reviews are estimated to potentially influence £23 billion of UK consumer spending every year, according to Government figures.

More than half of online shoppers (56%) use online reviews as a deciding factor when buying a product or service and 67% are more likely to buy a product or service if it has a five-star rating, a survey for NTS suggests.

Investigation into Amazon and Google over fake online reviews

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently leading an investigation into fake reviews, which includes a formal probe into Amazon and Google over concerns they have not been doing enough to combat fake reviews on their sites.

It follows action taken by the CMA last year over the trading of fake reviews, which resulted in Facebook, Instagram and eBay removing groups and banning individuals for buying and selling fake reviews on their sites.

NTS eCrime team national co-ordinator Mike Andrews said: “Bogus online reviews damage legitimate businesses and prop up those seeking to make a fast buck by selling shoddy goods.

“Many of those we surveyed said they felt deceived, conned and tricked after unwittingly falling for the fakes, often only realising the reviews were suspicious when it was too late.

“We urge those doing their Christmas shopping online to look out for fake online reviews and avoid being left out of pocket by using our tips.”

National Trading Standards top tips to avoid being conned by fake reviews online

  • Timing and spacing. Check for multiple similar reviews that have been uploaded within a few minutes or hours.
  • Reviewer’s history. Check the reviewer’s activity – if an account has been activated recently or has only reviewed a narrow range of products/services, this could indicate suspicious activity.
  • Vague language. Legitimate reviews will often be personal and specific to the individual’s experience of using the item, whilst a fake is more likely to be vague, using generic words and phrases such as ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’, ‘buy this product’.
  • Can you contact them? If a reviewer is happy to be contacted with questions, and is responsive, it’s a good sign they’re legitimate.
  • Use a browser plug-in. They use artificial intelligence to analyse reviews, identify suspicious activity and suggest better alternatives to consumers.
  • Look beyond the star rating. Whilst a star rating of 4.5 or 5 can be a good indicator of quality, do not go by this alone. Look at the reviews too and check them against these tips.

Anyone who fears they have been the victim on an online scam should report it to or by calling 0300 123 2040.

For advice and information call the Citizens Advice scams action service on 0808 250 5050.