Fake reviews submitted to online platforms are damaging the reputations of some small firms, according to a business group.
New research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed the obstacles firms are facing when using online marketplaces.
The most commonly reported problems are fake reviews and sudden changes to terms and conditions, the FSB said.
Mike Cherry, the FSB’s national chairman, inset, 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.”
Mr Cherry said that too many encounter problems such as malicious reviews and problems with intellectual property.
He added: “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.”