It comes as more people search for recommendations online when looking for the best places to go for a variety of treatments.
Fake reviews seen on Google profiles can be bought online and have also appeared on Amazon, Trustpilot and the App Store.
Harry Kind from consumer group Which? told the BBC: “I think it’s bad enough if you buy a pair of dodgy Bluetooth headphones off a fake review, but if you try and get a medical treatment done and it turns out that the review you chose the establishment on was fake, that could have really serious repercussions.
A BBC investigation has found medical clinics are using fake Google reviews to boost their profiles online.
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) August 2, 2023
“Selling them, buying them, and hosting them on your platforms should be illegal, they should be facing a fine there needs to be some deterrent from just buying a load of fake reviews because for now it’s easy to do.”
What UK medical clinics have been posting fake Google reviews?
Ipswich Spine Clinic run by Dr Amit Patel which had a 4.9/5 star rating on Google reviews, was just one of the places the broadcaster looked into.
It explained: “But our investigation found a number of people who had given this clinic five stars on Google, had also reviewed 16 of the same business in the US, Australia, Austria and Canada, for products as diverse as property conveyancing, car repairs, and hookah pipes.”
Just one of the fake customers who “reviewed” the clinic, wrote: “Dr Amit was brilliant…he assessed my injury quickly and came up with a treatment plan, I felt that I was in safe hands and highly recommend this place.”
The BBC added: “We also found that five people who had rated Ipswich Spine Clinic highly, posted negative comments on one of their local competitors.”
When contacted for a response, Dr Amit Patel told the BBC he had “outsourced his marketing to a company in India,” and wasn’t aware of the fake reviews posted on Google.
He also confirmed that since being in touch with the BBC, he has asked for reviews that are not real to be taken off Google.
Meanwhile, another clinic that was examined was a Manchester dentistry practice, Smiles Better.
As one false reviewer, Rose Bellamy posted on Google: “I’m so happy with my new smile. Super fast service and everyone was so helpful and kind.”
The BBC explained: “But in the same month, Rose Bellamy had also appeared to review a removal company in Australia, a restaurant in Sweden, an immigration company in Canada, and a spa in the US.
“A number of its reviewers who had posted five-star ratings on Google had also reviewed the same pattern of businesses around the world.
“Smiles Better had replied to some of its fake Google reviews, writing thank you messages.”
The company did not respond to the BBC when it was contacted “several times” and Newsquest has also contacted Smiles Better for a comment.
Fake review? Not as rare as you think. Some people seem to enjoy spreading unhappiness. The good news is – You can contact the reviewer and determine the validity of their reaction. You can even contact google and ask them to remove the review if determined a false review. pic.twitter.com/qwYADU0akF
— Home Services Digital Marketing Agency (@localimpactwv) August 2, 2023
A Department of Business and Trade spokesperson said: “We’re strengthening the law against fake reviews to protect consumers who spend an estimated £23 billion a year on items based off online reviews.
“We will publish a consultation later this year on our proposals so we are ready to implement these after the Bill receives Royal Assent, including giving the [Competition and Markets Authority] the power to fine these rogue traders.”
Tech business Google said it “does remove fake reviews and suspend fake accounts.”
A spokeswoman told the BBC: “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.”