Amazon has filed a lawsuit against “fake review brokers” who offer incentivized and misleading product reviews in exchange for money or free products from bad actors on the marketplace.
Fake reviews have plagued the ecommerce platform for years, and is among the most used black hat tactics for getting product reviews on Amazon. This latest effort by Amazon aims to shut down two major fake review brokers—AppSally and Rebatest.
Fake Review Brokers
The two firms subject of the suit operate in the same way as most other fake review service providers. According to Business Wire, AppSally sells fake reviews for as low as $20 by asking its client sellers to ship in an empty box to people willing to write good reviews and include a picture they can upload along with the review. The action also mentions that Rebatest pays only fake reviewers who give 5-star product ratings after such reviews have been approved by the bad actors selling those products.
Great customer reviews is one of the most effective ways Amazon sellers can make their brand and products stand out in the marketplace. According to Jungle Scout’s Q4 2021 Consumer Trends Report, most people prefer to shop online because of the ability to see reviews from honest customers before making the final decision to purchase.
In a statement, Amazon VP of WW Customer Trust & Partner Support Dharmesh Mehta said, “While we prevent millions of suspicious reviews from ever appearing in our store, these lawsuits target the source.”
Amazon’s lawsuit prays for an unspecified claim for damages and an injunctive relief against those fake review brokers to stop them from offering their services to marketplace sellers looking for an easy way to game the system and boost their products.
Fake Reviews and Social Media
The review feature is so crucial to an Amazon business that there is now a nefarious self-contained economy around fake reviews within the much bigger ecommerce ecosystem. To stay competitive, many marketplace sellers are willing to throw money on these fake review services to beef up their visibility and conversions.
Fake review farms often crop up on social media. BuzzFeed has previously reported that the systems through which these fraudulent schemes are usually facilitated through a web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, Discord services, and Facebook groups. Amazon has time and again asked social media companies to help weed out these fake review groups.
Unfair Competitive Advantage
Using fake reviews is only one in a plethora of black hat tactics that marketplace sellers have used over the years to gain a leg up on the competition.
- This past month, a former Amazon employee was sentenced to federal prison and a $50k fine for fraud and bribery, in a scheme where Amazon consultants accepted bribes from third-party sellers in exchange for favors like getting their suspended accounts reinstated or sabotaging competitor accounts.
- Price-fixing is also a huge problem for the ecommerce giant, and it’s not only being done by third-party sellers—Amazon’s own Sold by Amazon program was shut down for being an illegal price-fixing scheme.
Over 30 million user reviews come into Amazon every week, and the company uses both machine learning and human personnel to analyze every review before it finally gets displayed on a product page. A lot of fake reviews still make it through the cracks, but this lawsuit targeting major brokers (instead of just individual fake reviewers) is a welcome development.