Which? has given a warning to customers around paid-for fake reviews on websites, as many are finding their way onto major platforms such as Facebook, Google and Trustpilot.

As part of an investigation into the issue, Which? said it was easily able to use a fake reviews broker to supply numerous inauthentic positive reviews for a fictional business on all three platforms.

The consumer group said it was told by one broker that it had created nearly 16,000 reviews for more than 550 customers around the world – a sign of a vibrant industry not being adequately tackled by the tech giants.

It accused Facebook, Google and Trustpilot of failing to do enough to stop fake reviews appearing on platforms and said they were slow to act to take down flagged reviews and accounts in some cases, and that a number of businesses that Which? found to use fake reviews remained online.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Google was one of the platforms criticised by Which? in its report (PA)Google was one of the platforms criticised by Which? in its report (PA)

Highlighting the scale of the issue, Which? said more than a thousand reviews have been removed by the three platforms in the wake of its investigation.

In the Queen’s Speech earlier this year, the Government outlined plans for a Digital, Competition and Consumer Bill which would include a crackdown on fake reviews – something Which? has called on the new prime minister to introduce to Parliament without delay once they take office in the autumn.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy said: “Facebook, Google and Trustpilot are failing to do enough to shut out a fake reviews industry that has been thriving and profiting from misleading reviews for years now.

"Facebook in particular has repeatedly been slow to act in tackling fake reviews, showing a complete disregard for consumers who want to read genuine reviews.

“The Government has outlined plans for a new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill that would give the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) stronger powers to protect consumers from an avalanche of fake reviews. The Bill must be introduced to Parliament by the new prime minister without delay."

In response, a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said: “We’re investigating the accounts brought to our attention.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: More than a thousand reviews had been removed from Facebook, Google and Trustpilot after Which? made their report (PA)More than a thousand reviews had been removed from Facebook, Google and Trustpilot after Which? made their report (PA)

“We have dedicated extensive time and resources to tackling this issue and will continue to do so. Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews."

A Google spokesperson said: “We invest significantly in building technologies and instituting practices that help people find reliable information on Google.

“Our policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take swift action ranging from content removal to account suspension and even litigation."

Trustpilot said: “The issue of fake reviews is constantly evolving, but Trustpilot is continually working to ensure we are taking appropriate action against attempts to manipulate reviews on our site — including where those reviews are written by review sellers."