FAKE reviews are putting small firms off using online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Facebook, according to new research.

A study from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed the scale of problems that smaller firms are facing when it comes to using online platforms, especially after the busy festive period, when they rely on them to succeed.

However, the FSB said they used online facilities for cross-border trade because they help promote products in untapped markets at a reduced risk, raise brand awareness, foster consumer trust and reduce the costs associated with internationalisation.

However, the FSB survey showed the most commonly reported problems were fake reviews, which were reported by more than a fifth (21%) of firms and sudden changes to terms and conditions, reported by 19%.

Mike Cherry, FSB’s national chair, 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.

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“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 the 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 improving 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 World Trade Organisation and in the Government’s future bilateral trade negotiations.”