UK rolls out new rules to battle fake reviews, anti-competitive practices

(Reuters) - Britain's competition regulator will directly enforce consumer law and can fine firms up to 10% of their global annual turnover for mistreating customers, the UK government said, as it announced new rules to tackle fake reviews and bad business practices.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), instead of a court, will be able to award compensation and directly impose the financial penalties on businesses and up to 300,000 pounds ($390,630.00) in case of an individual, the government said.

The announcement made on Wednesday also included measures to take on fake reviews, subscription "traps," and "rip-offs" to protect customers.

The rules include plans to make it illegal to pay someone to write or host a fake review, and have clearer rules to make it easier for consumers to opt out of subscriptions.

"New measures requiring legal changes, such as tackling fake reviews, will come into effect on a commencement date that will follow parliamentary approval," the government's statement said.

The UK also said it is increasing the CMA's ability to fine companies for abusing their market position. The minimum turnover threshold for immunity from financial penalties is reduced to 20 million pounds from 50 million pounds.

Mergers between small businesses, where the UK turnover is less than 10 million pounds, will be excluded from the antitrust authority's control, the government said in a statement.

($1 = 0.7680 pounds)

(Reporting by Shivani Tanna in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)