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Amazon Rates Fake Reviews Worthy of Lawsuits

Product reviews provide invaluable word of mouth recommendations that can make or break sales of items. Sellers like Amazon.com have long placed importance on these reviews, and the company recently stepped up its efforts to combat the phony ones that plague its listings.

Over one thousand fake reviewers are being sued in the latest legal counterattack by Amazon, according to BBC News. The reviewers, apparently contracted for their efforts through the work-for-hire site Fiverr, are alleged to have used multiple accounts to try and avoid detection.

This current filing as noted at TechCrunch seeks to not only stop the placement of fake reviews for pay, but to identify those people who paid for those reviews as well. The lawsuit also suggests Amazon could attempt to recover monetary damages from the fake reviewers.

As EcommerceBytes has previously noted, Amazon sued a review seller in April. The purported individual offered “the ability to purchase fake 4- and 5-star customer reviews of their products,” hinting that the service was oriented towards sellers seeking to stand out amongst competitors with laudatory commentary from customers.

A few months later in the UK, the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) undertook its own investigation into bogus reviews. PowerReviews noted that agency not only found similar paid fake reviews, but that some businesses were suppressing negative reviews, a practice PowerReviews suggested was shortsighted.

“Studies show that the average star rating that drives the most conversions on a website isn’t a 5-star rating anyway, it’s something much lower. And are we really giving enough credit to consumers by removing the negative reviews,” PowerReviews’ Anne Marie Olsen blogged. “Let’s not kid ourselves, shoppers look for negative reviews to validate purchase decisions, and most people are savvy enough to discount overwhelmingly positive ratings as biased.”

The ability to leave fake reviews caused some EcommerceBytes readers to question how this could be possible. “I thought you had to have actually PURCHASED the item to leave a review?” commenter Comet asked.

As others EcommerceBytes readers noted, this isn’t the case. “That’s not a problem because, as you’ll see when perusing reviews on Amazon, there are a good percentage which are not identified with “Verified Purchase” in orange text,” commenter SalesBoy said.

“I have often been one of those non-verified myself after having bought the same item from another retailer like Home Depot, etc. The only visible difference is that the words “Verified Purchase” are absent if the review is written by a non-Amazon buyer.”

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.