Amazon is allegedly investigating reports of bribery used by sellers to obtain confidential data to get a leg up on their competitors, according to the Wall Street Journal
(paid subscription required).
wrote about the allegations, including one about feedback manipulation: "According to the Wall Street Journal's sources, this practice is especially common in China, where small business owners sometimes pay Amazon employees around $300 for each bad review they take down."
Prior to the Wall Street Journal's article, at least four readers forwarded us a link
to a thread on Amazon's UK discussion boards about a seller they suspected was having their feedback scrubbed, with at least one believing Amazon must be assisting the seller. The first response to the original post (dated August 5) was from a seller who said:
"Unfortunately, Amazon won't do anything.
"I also have a similar competitor who keeps having walls of legit negative feedbacks removed every day. I wouldn't mind if they weren't placing orders from my own store and bombarding me with false negative ratings, which I can't have removed.
"They must have someone in Amazon assisting them with this. I guess that some sellers are more equal than others."
The thread has garnered over 1,000 posts since early August. Today, a seller there pointed to today's BBC coverage of the Wall Street Journal article and referenced a statement from Amazon: "In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action." The seller commented, "I'm not sure how they define "swift.""
Sellers have also made allegations about feedback manipulation by eBay sellers - see this letter to the editor
published on August 20th.
And while the Wall Street Journal made much of the fact that Chinese sellers allegedly obtain internal data from Amazon through sketchy means, things are a little different on eBay - the company itself helps Chinese sellers and freely admits it.
This 2014 article in The Atlantic
quoted eBay executive Devin Wenig, now CEO of the company:
"We send [manufacturers] data about what people are looking for on eBay and they respond and turn it around incredibly quickly," president of eBay Marketplaces Devin Wenig told me. "We have a really big China export business to Europe and the United States. And they respond very, very quickly to consumer taste, whatever it might be. It's really remarkable to see how quickly the manufacturing base adapts to the demand signals they get."