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Government Cracks Down on Fake Amazon Reviews

Government Cracks Down on Fake Amazon Reviews

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused an online seller of paying for fake reviews on Amazon.com. The FTC said it was the first case in which it challenged a marketer’s use of fake paid reviews on an independent retail website.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants advertised and sold a dietary supplement on Amazon.com as an appetite-suppressing, fat-blocking, weight-loss pill.

The FTC alleges that the defendants paid a website to create and post Amazon reviews of their product, allegedly telling the website’s operator that his product needed to have an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars in order to have sales and to, “Please make my product … stay a five star.”

“As described in the FTC’s complaint, the reviews the defendants bought were posted on Amazon.com and gave the product a five-star rating. The complaint charges the defendants with representing that the purchased Amazon reviews were truthful reviews written by actual purchasers, when in reality they were fabricated.”

Interestingly the order requires the defendants to notify Amazon that they purchased reviews and which ones they purchased.

An Amazon spokesperson provided us with the following statement:

“We welcome the FTC’s work in this area. Amazon invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers. Even one inauthentic review is one too many. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban, and take legal action on those who violate our policies.”

The consequences for the defendants in the case are steep – the FTC stated:

“The order imposes a judgment of $12.8 million, which will be suspended upon payment of $50,000 to the Commission and the payment of certain unpaid income tax obligations. If the defendants are later found to have misrepresented their financial condition to the FTC, the full amount of the judgment will immediately become due.”

The press release announcing the FTC’s action notes: “The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final injunctions/orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.”

See the press release on the FTC.gov website.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

One thought on “Government Cracks Down on Fake Amazon Reviews”

  1. I hope the FTC cares just as much about competitors buying fake reviews to give negatives to their competition!

    Also, the fact that Amazon says they put in a lot of resources to protect the integrity of reviews is the biggest laugh I have ever heard. They do not care about good or bad reviews, you can find thousands upon thousands of “joke” reviews cluttering up the product review sections, and also amazon rather eat puppies then remove a lying buyers negative.


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