The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says that fake reviews are having a detrimental effect on Swindon and Wiltshire companies using online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Facebook.
Small businesses are often reliant on such online platforms to succeed because they help to promote products in untapped markets at a reduced risk, raise brand awareness, foster consumer trust and reduce the costs associated with internationalisation.
One in five small firms who trade online do so using online marketplaces such as Amazon and Facebook but using online platforms is not without problems.
Fake reviews and sudden changes to terms and conditions are among the challenges faced by small businesses.
In addition, according to the FSB, 38 per cent of small firms say that problems with local delivery is the main issue affecting their exports, whilst non-tariff barriers, such as local taxes and regulations, are also limiting business growth.
FSB Development Manager Ruth Lambert, said, “Digital trade is taking the UK small business community by storm. Businesses are using the online opportunities being offered to them to grow and expand their firms. But huge difficulties lie ahead.
“When small firms trade digitally across the world, they are highly exposed to global market forces and disruptions to trade flows.
“It’s vital that Government both listens to small businesses about their exporting needs and considers them as part of any response to the ongoing digital trade revolution.
“Domestically, this means having access to fast and reliable broadband and mobile coverage across the country, but also requires upskilling employees’ and business owners’ digital skills.
“Internationally, this will require the government to push to remove barriers to digital trade encountered in overseas markets, such as data localisation measures and weak intellectual property protections, at both the WTO and in the government’s future bilateral trade negotiations.
“At the moment, around 20 per cent of current small business exporters and importers use online platforms to trade internationally, but this could expand hugely if the environment for them was improved.
“Crucial to small firms are websites like eBay, Amazon and Facebook who are central to advertising, sales, and their exporting aims.
“However, small businesses’ use of online platforms is not without problems, and still too many encounter problems such as fake or malicious reviews, problems with intellectual property, and sudden delisting of their products. We would urge the Government to monitor these trends in small businesses’ use of online platforms as the e-commerce market continues to expand.
“Small and micro-business owners are ready to take on the opportunities presented by the global digital economy and are on hand to unlock the benefits of the cross-border digital economy, but this can only work if the markets and tools available are welcoming to them.”