Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Apr 5 2018 22:25:22

Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

By: Ina Steiner

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Amazon cracked down on buyers last week, suspending them without warning or explanation, leaving thousands of customers trying piece together the reason for their sudden bans. 

EcommerceBytes wrote about the incident on Sunday, and after a backlash on social media, other tech publications began to pick up the story. Business Insider, which didn't quote Amazon, was sympathetic to the suspended customers, while CNBC appeared to blame third-party sellers for getting their buyers in trouble by compensating them for leaving reviews.

So what were the reasons behind Amazon's sudden purge of customers? While Amazon would not be specific when EcommerceBytes inquired on Sunday and again Tuesday, the company did finally send an email today to many of the buyers whose accounts had been deactivated:

Hello from Amazon
Thank you for contacting Amazon Customer Service. We have reviewed your account and confirmed it was deactivated for violations of our Community Guidelines and Conditions of Use.

Your account has been deactivated for one or both of the following reasons:

- Your reviews were posted in exchange for compensation, such as gift cards to purchase the product, product refunds, review swaps, or free or discounted products; and/or

- Your account was used for commercial purposes.

We have submitted your account for re-consideration and will advise in the next 7 business days if your account is eligible for reactivation.

In the meantime, if you have made digital purchases (e.g. movies, audible.com, books) the content is now available to you.

Thank you.
Amazon

Amazon indicated that its investigation showed bad actors may be behind the "social media campaign." But the reaction to that characterization upset members of a Facebook group of Amazon users whose accounts had been closed since last week. Some members said they hadn't left reviews, or hadn't left reviews since Amazon changed its terms in 2016 to ban incentivized reviews.

However, some customers whose accounts had been deactivated said they had been getting Amazon gift cards or promo cards from third-party services for doing things like uploading shopping receipts through apps such as Paribus.

One buyer said she didn't abuse the system because while she used coupon codes offered by merchants, she didn't follow through, choosing to ignore the pleas for reviews.

Another buyer regularly reviews products on her blog and fully disclosed in her reviews that she had either received the products for free or at a discount; she includes links to the products on Amazon at the bottom of her reviews. She was genuinely perplexed about why Amazon had deactivated her account.

We asked Amazon about the reference to reviews in today's letter, and a spokesperson said:

"We work hard to ensure that customers can trust reviews on Amazon. Inappropriate reviews makeup a tiny percentage of all reviews on Amazon, but even one is unacceptable, and we will not stop until all are identified and removed.

"We prohibit incentivized reviews (reviews where the customer was provided a free or discounted product in exchange for a review) unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program or the Amazon Early Reviewer Program.

"We enforce a participation requirement - All US reviewers must have a password-protected Amazon.com account, used for at least $50.00 in purchases on Amazon with a valid credit or debit card. Amazon is investing heavily in manual and automated systems to identify those who create the demand for fraudulent reviews.

"We have banned and will continue to ban vendors and sellers who abuse the reviews system. We have brought lawsuits against over 1000 defendants for reviews abuse and we will continue to pursue legal action against the root cause - the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand and the individuals who deliver the inauthentic reviews."

Some members of the Facebook Group continue to insist Amazon made a mistake with their account and were particularly incensed by the sudden nature of their suspension without notification. Amazon's spokesperson indicated they may notify customers if they violate its reviews policy once, but if there are multiple violations or other infractions, Amazon may suspend their account without warning.

According to the spokesperson, "Customer trust is one of Amazon's top priorities. To protect that trust, we take a number of actions, including closing accounts that have violated our policies. If a customer has a question about their account, we recommend they contact Customer Service so we can investigate and take appropriate action."



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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: 1st Armored Div. 1971-1973 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 00:00:09 2018

I am not losing sleep over them. I am out there buying merchandise sometimes based on reviews and if they are lying about the product then they are misleading customers who are buying the product.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 00:14:12 2018

Commercial use? You mean like those people that list thousands of products they dont own on ebay and when sell, just use their prime account to directly ship to the buyer.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Apr 6 00:47:58 2018

Reviews have been abused across the net.

IMO, they should be eliminated.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Apr 6 01:11:50 2018

Today I am very happy that there are reviews. I needed a new pair of slippers and found a pair that I really liked but was concerned as I have hard to fit feet. So, I looked at the reviews, many complained that the slippers were too wide. Others mentioned it but no big deal. With those reviews I was able to be hopeful that the slippers might fit, so I ordered them and they showed up on Monday - What happy feet I have. They fit perfectly. If not for the reviews, I might not have tried them. In this instance the reviews did what they were suppose to do. I was happy to write my own review on them as well, even though I got them for 'free'. Prime shipping, and my discover card cash backs plus some extra cash through ebates. :)

I have been participating on the Amazon Vine program for years, and I can see the good reasons for product reviews. Like when my husband who will generally eat anything was gagging over the last food item we were sent to try. Nasty. Some people might like them, I have no clue, but they looked like dog biscuits and tasted horrible even if they were organic.

I have found some wonderful new brands and some great products, but good or bad I leave an honest review which is the whole point. Too bad that some miss the point.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Fri Apr 6 02:49:13 2018

@thebobman

I was wondering the exact same thing.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: donald This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 02:59:41 2018



Lets hope it works. I was swindle earlier this year by one of their buyers.

On another topic. Has anyone of you sellers experience a new Amazon payment system. The old Amazon Payments Inc and the new Amazon Services LLC.  I noticed that today. Half of today's sale revenues were in each of the two Payment systems. I had to do two separate transfers.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 10:13:01 2018

Hats off to amazon on this one. If they are banning people for fake reviews and commercial buying then amazon will be a better place for it. I wish ebay was offering me the same protection when I buy on ebay and some idiot uses their prime account and amazon script to use my identity to buy items.

Everytime I buy something on on another site and it comes from amazon drop shipping and prime abuse I always worry I will be somehow linked to the seller if they have too many returns or if they inaccurately describe an item forcing me to send back the item directly to amazon.

I am also afraid that a dropship seller will buy a product with a stolen creditcard leaving me to answer for their crime.

This will also save amazon a ton of money in prime shipping discounts for people who do not have prime accounts.

What amazon should do instead of suspend the buyers though is to allow buyers to only rate items they purchased and stop offering prime shipping discounts on gift purchases. This way they won't have to do mass banning and avoid the bad press.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: epuise This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 10:33:05 2018

Ah... Prime Abuse...
Drop Shipping products
- you source on Amazon & have Amazon ship...
while you are an eBay 'Seller'
- who basically does nothing a lot of us must do:
1. Source merch. w/ OUR money
2. Store those products, clean & dry
3. Take photos, describe
4. Pack, go to P.O.
I have no sympathy... sorry.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 10:54:30 2018

No sympathy here either. Amazing how many people claim they are being picked on. Are these the same people who like to use Amazon as a two way street and think that they are getting away with something. AMAZON IS ON TO YOU. So don't do the WHY ME card when you know exactly what rules you are playing by. No sympathy.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: Vernfern This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 13:04:29 2018

Fake reviews on Amazon has been a problem, but are definitely a minority. Like Moonwishes states above, the honest reviews are great for clothing items where fit can be an issue, and I use appreciate them when shopping for shoes and clothing.

But I had an experience where an item received glowing reviews - a lot of them, with just a small number of complete opposite reviews. I purchased the item and indeed it was very poor quality as indicated in the few poor reviews. I posted a poor review as well and was essentially attacked by other "buyers" who questioned my honest review by placing nasty comments to mine. Clearly the seller had people post fake reviews for their product. I would hope these buyers and this seller got the boot.

As for drop shipping, sorry but I have no sympathy for the flippers who use Amazon as an eBay fulfillment center. If the seller has products on both platforms and runs out, I can understand that but let the buyer know and why. I do not like receiving an eBay purchase in an Amazon box simply as I suspect I should have bought from Amazon in the first place.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Fri Apr 6 14:35:17 2018

Kudos to Amazon for clamping down on review abuse.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: FidoMaster

Fri Apr 6 15:35:44 2018

As a comparison, legit job boards and aggregators clearly identify 3rd-party recruiters.  The good ones allow jobseekers to filter out 3rd parties that don't have a contractual relationship with the hiring employer and are simply respamming the job posting.

#EBAY and other marketplaces should provide consumers/buyers similar tools and require sellers to provide clear transparency around listings and items that are not owned or under the direct control of the seller at the time of order.

That said, $EBAY should disallow entirely the particular dropship model variant that is so common on their platform whereby 'sellers' source and purchase items only AFTER the buyer has placed an order. (eg. eBay buyer places order, THEN dropshipper orders through $AMZ to be delivered to buyer direct from AMZ).  

Naturally that's not about to happen anytime soon because eBay is more concerned with GMV and collecting fees than actually ensuring a level playing field for sellers along with transparency and providing a great experience for buyers.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: dander This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 16:25:44 2018

You break the rules don't cry when your account is suspended

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Fri Apr 6 22:12:09 2018

Meanwhile, they let clowns like this continue to sell:

https://www.amazon.com/Transformers-Generations-Voyager-C
lass-Toy-assorted/dp/B00T041RQ8/ref=sr_1_38?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1523066754&sr=1-38&keywords=transformers+power+of+the+primes

"InStock
Group" lists the wrong description with the wrong photos with intent to mislead and there goes Amazon tilting at windmills.

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This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Fri Apr 6 22:17:15 2018

Think this is a move to hurt eBay?

Could be. There has always been a rule against dropshipping using your Amazon Prime account. Now Amazon has decided to finally enforce this.

Although there still may be methods to skirt this rule, the obvious offenders have now been effectively put out of business (at least with the IP address they used on Amazon). There were some dropship artists who had all their packages sent as ''gifts''. It was easy to figure that one out.

One poster recently stated that AMZ dropshippers account for the majority of the transactions on eBay. Definitely not true or accurate, but this will affect many EB sales, this is for certain.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Sat Apr 7 02:16:10 2018

Not everything is about Ebay.

Perminate Link for Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues   Backlash over Amazon Customer Crackdown Continues

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Apr 30 02:59:57 2018

I follow the Amazon forum at Amazon and at times the forum (or perhaps it is one of many) on Facebook. On Amazon when someone suggests something that is against Amazon rules, they are told it is against rules with no nonsense of 'you aren't supposed to do it, but do it anyhow if you want'.

On the FB thread I have been surprised at how much bad advice is being distributed, and if you try to correct it, you get dumped on. That forum on FB is  a perfect place for Amazon to skim seller names to find and suspend sellers for not following the rules. No wonder some sellers seemed to be confused! Many of them also seem to be international sellers from various oriental countries. To many on that FB forum seem to value profit above anything else such as honesty and integrity.                                                      



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