A new war is reportedly waging at online retail giant Amazon over an influx of possibly inauthentic reviews for some products.
"All the sellers on Amazon are kind of getting hurt from this because there are a few that don't play by the rules," said Tommy Noonan, who operates the website ReviewMeta.com.
The Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reports that "a vast majority of reviews" for products in popular categories like Bluetooth headphones and speakers "appear to violate Amazon's prohibition on paid reviews," artificially inflating the ranking of thousands of products on the site and leaving some sellers with little recourse to combat the problem.
"Right now, it's really difficult for sellers who are like us...competing against unscrupulous sellers who are engaged in activities that generate five star product reviews of their own products and also buying fake one star reviews of their competitive products," said Mark Caldeira, owner of Mayapple Baby.
And while Amazon banned paid reviews a year and a half ago, the Washington Post says that hasn't stopped some sellers from recruiting reviewers on social media sites, reporting that in February there were nearly 100 Facebook groups, one with 50,000 members, for the purpose of sourcing positive reviews.
"The Amazon sellers need to reach large market buyers," said Renee Diresta, Data for Democract policy lead. "The Facebook groups offer an opportunity for sellers to just to have access to in some cases 70,000-80,000 people. You would get the product for free in exchange for a review and sometimes they would give you they would usually send you a refund in the form of PayPal."
According to ReviewMeta, a website that helps consumers spot questionable reviews, there are some red flags to watch out for.
"Actually reading the text of the reviews rather than going off of the average rating because the average rating can be misleading," Noonan said.
In a statement, Amazon says "Inauthentic reviews made up less than 1 percent of all reviews on Amazon last month...we investigate each claim. We take forceful action against both reviewers and sellers by suppressing reviews that violate our guidelines."
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Paid reviews reportedly still popping up on Amazon despite ban