Online shopping sites like customers to leave star ratings and comments about what they have bought – but thousands of these reviews are alleged as false.
Go to any web site offering work to freelance writers and you probably see online traders seeking positive reviews posted on shopping sites in return for cash.
Now, in admission that bogus reviews are getting out of hand, international online retailer Amazon has filed a lawsuit in Seattle, Washington against more than a thousand traders allegedly peddling fake ratings and customer comments.
Amazon has not named the targets of their ire, but refreshingly explained ‘false, misleading and inauthentic’ reviews were damaging their brand.
Spook reviews are nothing new – freelance jobs boards regularly offer the gigs.
Breach of trust
In most cases, the reviewer never even see the product, but just makes up a glowing testimonial for posting to Amazon and other web sites.
The testimonials cost as little as $5 on freelance site Fiverr and help build a seller’s ‘trusted’ profile online.
“Traders are not posting a huge number of these testimonials, but these reviews break the trust between customers and sellers and the reputation of platforms like Amazon,” said the lawsuit.
Amazon also explained that the deception had been proved with fake purchases – and revealed reviews are tracked by IP address which discloses if the same person is posting regularly.
“Some people try to get round this by posting from more than one IP address, but we have systems in place to track this,” said a spokesman.
Both Amazon and Fiverr agreed Fiverr was not to blame for the spoof reviews and in a joint statement, both organisations stated they were working together to resolve the problem.
Amazon allows anyone to review a product, whether they buy a product or not, but the terms and conditions prohibit made-up reviews.
In a broader context, the lawsuit must lead shoppers to ask if they are duped by marketing material, reviews and ratings.
If multinational companies such as Amazon and Volkswagen – perpetrators of the exhaust emissions scandal – are publishing material that misleads customers, the ethics of other business and review sites who do not verify reviews must be called into question as well.