Amazon customers ‘bribed’ to leave good reviews 

Which? survey finds one in ten Amazon shoppers said they were offered an incentive in the last year in exchange for a five-star review

As many as 4.5 million Amazon shoppers could have been offered ‘bribes’ for fake reviews, Which? claims. Its survey of more than 1,500 adults in Great Britain found that 10% of shoppers who bought Amazon products in the previous 12 months had received a note or card in the packaging offering them an incentive for leaving a five-star review.  

The survey, conducted in July, found 8% of customers had been asked by a seller – via email or other communication method – to leave a five-star review in exchange for an incentive. And 4% were offered a reward for changing a negative review to a positive one. Some Amazon customers told the consumer champion they had changed their reviews after being offered an incentive.

Amazon made promises earlier this year to step up action to stop fake reviews, ahead of new rules that will punish companies for allowing fake reviews on their websites. Recent government research has found that despite moderation efforts by platforms who host reviews that around 11% to 15% of product reviews on popular e-commerce sites are still fake.

Which? is calling on platforms to take ‘reasonable’ and ‘proportionate’ measures to ensure the reviews they host are genuine – including pre- and post-publication checks. Rocio Concha Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which? said:

‘Amazon and other review-hosting websites need to step up and do more to banish fake reviews from their platforms by taking measures that ensure the reviews they host are genuine.’

Amazon says abuse like this is ‘challenging to detect and stop’

Amazon says it is investigating the sellers involved and claims to have already taken action against those identified by Which?, removing a number of reviews prior to the publication of this research. An Amazon spokesperson said:

‘We have clear policies that prohibit reviews abuse, and we do not allow sellers to contact customers directly about a review and offer them incentives like gift cards to alter their reviews. There is absolutely no place for this kind of activity and we suspend, ban, and take legal action against sellers who violate our policies.’

Amazon says that abuse like this is often coordinated outside its store, making it ‘challenging to detect and stop.’ It says it is working to target ‘bad actors’ that attempt to solicit incentivised reviews through insert cards and emails.

New measures to help consumers as they shop

The new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – which is likely to become law next year – bans unfair commercial practices. This includes banning companies from facilitating fake reviews without checking they are genuine. These new provisions are an upgrade to the existing Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) which don’t explicitly ban fake reviews.

The government has this month asked for views on its proposed new actions aimed at improving the quality and accessibility of information for consumers to help them make better shopping choices. These include measures to explicitly ban fake online reviews. It is recommending for it to become a criminal offence if platforms like Amazon do not take ‘reasonable’ and ‘proportionate’ steps to stop fake and misleading reviews. 

Previous research from Which? found fake reviews make consumers more than twice as likely to be misled into choosing poor-quality products. Which? has today released a new report outlining how online review platforms, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Trustpilot, can do more to tackle fake reviews. 

Amazon sued by US government for using its power to inflate prices 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 17 state attorneys general have this week sued Amazon, alleging that the company is unlawfully exploiting its dominant position in the marketplace to raise prices, bias its own products over ones that Amazon knows are better quality and stifle competition. John Newman Deputy Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition said:

‘We’re bringing this case because Amazon’s illegal conduct has stifled competition across a huge swath of the online economy. Amazon is a monopolist that uses its power to hike prices on American shoppers and charge sky-high fees on hundreds of thousands of online sellers. Seldom in the history of U.S. antitrust law has one case had the potential to do so much good for so many people.’

Amazon said the FTC’s lawsuit would lead to ‘higher prices and slower deliveries for consumers’.

In the UK, Amazon is facing two competing multi-million-pound consumer lawsuits for favouring its own products. Amazon has been accused in separate claims by consumer advocates Julie Hunter and Robert Hammond of not always offering customers the best deals. It is estimated that more than 80% of Amazon shoppers in the UK bought products shown in Amazon’s Buy Box, and it’s here where Amazon is accused of favouring its own products. Amazon is also accused of striking a secret deal to increase the cost of Apple products in a £500m consumer lawsuit being pursued by consumer law expert Professor Christine Riefa.

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