In April, we wrote about Amazon's mass suspension
of buyers for what appeared to have been part of a crackdown on reviews; it's against Amazon policy to leave product reviews in exchange for compensation "such as gift cards to purchase the product, product refunds, review swaps, or free or discounted products."
That was in April. In late May, sellers reported that Amazon began deleting product reviews from ASINs en masse.
It's important to distinguish between reviews left for products versus feedback left for sellers, which also saw a change at the same time. (Amazon began limiting the number of feedback displayed on a seller's account to the past 12 months instead of the lifetime of the account.)
The removal of product reviews had an immediate, measurable impact on sales, according to sellers discussing the change. Some sellers defended their practices when a few expressed skepticism that their colleagues could have garnered so many reviews for their products without using questionable practices.
Online selling expert Lisa Suttora had some advice for what she called the "review removal sweep
" that was "targeted at removing fake, purchased, and incentivized reviews" and warned that some legitimate reviews were also getting removed in the process.
What makes a product review problematic? When the seller violates Amazon's review manipulation policy, including providing incentives for reviews and "friend, family or acquaintance reviews."
According to Suttora, "if you've had product reviews removed, Amazon has likely made your product ineligible to receive future product reviews."
Suttora and some sellers pointed to private Facebook groups that pay for reviews. One seller wrote, "Hopefully Amazon is taking long overdue action and cleaning the site off of scam artists who use private Facebook review groups to get fake 5-star reviews in return for a PayPal refund of the purchase plus a bonus. If Amazon’s AI has started doing that, chances are that some honest sellers are also caught in cross fire, but the end result will be better for everyone."
The seller also said he'd heard of cases where sellers recruit people to purchase competitive products and leave them negative reviews in exchange for refunds and bonuses. That's not difficult to believe - selling on Amazon is cutthroat.
Readers may also remember the recent report that Amazon was cracking down on buyers who returned too many items
. Amazon is obviously doing some serious spring cleaning, coming down on both sellers and buyers who violate its terms of service, with some users saying they're caught up in the sweeps in error.