End of subscription trap nightmare! Britons to see huge crackdown on hard to leave firms

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New proposals will also make it “clearly illegal” to pay someone to write or host fake reviews. Powers given to The Competition and Markets Authority will enable them to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for these bad business practices – or up to £300,000 if it is an individual. However, the decision has been met with concern by some industry experts worried it may put too much control on companies.

Journalist Oobah Butler drew attention to the phenomenon in 2017 by creating fake restaurant The Shed at Dulwich and making it the top-reviewed restaurant in London on TripAdvisor using fake reviews – all without once serving a meal.

Responding to the Government’s plan, Tripadvisor said its operations “are geared towards identifying, blocking and removing fake reviews”.

Senior safety director Becky Foley welcomed the plan, saying: “The most direct way to protect consumers from biased and inaccurate information is to focus public policies and enforcement on the bad actors.”

Reviews website Trustpilot added it “welcomes legislation introduced with the aim of protecting consumers from fake reviews”.

It said it is “continually working to ensure we are taking appropriate action against attempts to manipulate reviews on our site”.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the extra powers the CMA stands to gain would “help stamp out the practice of fake reviews, which do irreparable damage to businesses”, but added that the “devil will be in the detail” of the policy.

She warned of possible “unnecessary burdens on businesses” when safeguarding consumers, and worried that CMA powers may “unfairly punish businesses” if there isn’t a “clear right of appeal”.

She added: “Fairness for both businesses and consumers, particularly when it comes to offering refunds, will be crucial and any new measures must also be made in the context of a sector facing an onslaught of challenges after a difficult two years.”

The Government added that the CMA’s new powers will give it “stronger tools to tackle companies colluding to bump-up prices” and also to stop “killer acquisitions” in which big businesses absorb rivals before they can launch new products.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said the new rules were an “important milestone towards strengthening the CMA’s ability to hold companies to account, promote fair and open markets, and protect UK consumers”.

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