Amazon is grappling with an entire industry aimed at providing fake reviews and gaming the system, according to new research.
Which? is a UK-based company that reviews products and services and helps consumers make educated choices. The company has investigated the state of Amazon reviews and found that fake reviews are being sold in bulk.
Customers rely on Amazon reviews to make decisions about their purchases. Even when customers ultimately end up purchasing elsewhere, Amazon product reviews often still impact customers’ decisions. Unfortunately, many of those reviews may be fake, according to Which?.
“More people are shopping online than ever before due to the coronavirus crisis – yet our latest research shows that Amazon is facing an uphill struggle against a relentless and widespread fake reviews industry geared towards misleading consumers,” Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which?, said.
Some companies charge as little as £5 per review, while others charge more, up to £8,000 for 1,000 reviews. Many of the companies provided incentives and rewards programs, along with guidelines to help their armies of reviews avoid detection by Amazon.
All the sites Which? signed up to gave advice for how to write reviews so as not to arouse Amazon’s suspicion, and in many cases had criteria for reviewers to meet to qualify for rewards. These included leaving reviews that were at least two sentences long, posting an accompanying image or video and not posting reviews until at least four days after receiving a product. Some sites also had no return policies – as returned products are monitored by Amazon and high return rates can affect the chance of an Amazon’s Choice endorsement.
Which? is calling on regulators to take action against these kind of schemes, in the interest of protecting customers that rely on such reviews to make informed decisions. The company is also calling on tech firms, such as Google and Facebook, to crack down on these companies, as many of them use search and social media platforms to gain reviewers.
“The regulator must crack down on bad actors and hold sites to account if they fail to keep their users safe. If it is unable to do so, the government must urgently strengthen online consumer protections,” Hitchins added.
“Amazon, and other online platforms, must do more to proactively prevent fake reviews infiltrating their sites so that consumers can trust the integrity of their reviews.”
It remains to be seen what, if any, action will be taken. in the meantime, savvy purchasers would do well to take Amazon’s reviews with a grain of salt.