Online shoppers have warned of hidden price increases
Algorithms used by online marketplaces can lead to rising prices for goods and services, the British watchdog warned.
The Competitive Market (CMA) examines companies that use technology in sales platforms.
Buyers could be “manipulated” to buy specific items because search results favor certain brands, it said.
Consumers may also see misleading messages on these sites, indicating a shortage of goods.
Collaborating on enterprise spending and browser data can lead to “continued higher prices for products and services,” the CMA said.
Kate Brand, its director of computer science, added: ‘Algorithms play an important role online, but if not used responsibly, they can potentially cause enormous harm to consumers and businesses.
“Assessing this damage is the first step in ensuring that consumers are protected and in complementing our broader work in digital markets to promote greater competition and innovation online. ”
The impact of algorithms can be difficult to detect for buyers, the regulator warned, adding that sites could use “push” including the placement of a “buy” button or generate a “personal price”.
Internet platforms can also have misleading messages that a product is missing, CMA added.
Another thing it wants to explore is how companies can use algorithms to manipulate online crawl scores.
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But the CMA has recognized that this technology can also bring benefits, suggesting products or services that consumers are more often interested in.
It has now requested contributions from academics and industry experts to assist the research.
“Most algorithms used by private companies online are currently subject to little or no regulatory oversight, and research concludes that more control and performance is required by regulators,” the CMA said in a statement.
Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at the consumer group Who ?, said “pressure-selling tactics” or the use of false reviews can be detrimental to customers.
Algorithms can help consumers find appropriate products and services as well as great deals, but can also be used to track and control behaviors in ways they do not know, leading to them being manipulated or misled – either by accident or by design, ”she said. added.