Can Amazon Make a Dent in Phony Product Reviews?

Find yourself wondering if product reviews are real or not? Yeah, that's a problem for the online retailer giant that has prompted it to take legal action.

Can Amazon Make a Dent in Phony Product Reviews? Photo (cc) by mind on fire

If you’re like many online shoppers, you rely on — or at least check out — other customers’ posted product reviews before you make a purchasing decision. But all too often, the reviews are fake.

In an attempt to block phony reviews on its site, Amazon is suing the operators of three websites that it says sell fictitious praise for products.

Amazon is accusing Jay Gentile of California and websites buyamazonreviews.com and buyazonreviews.com, among others, of false advertising and trademark infringement, as well as violating the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act, The Seattle Times reports.

“While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand,” according to the suit.

Mark Collins, owner of buyamazonreviews.com, said in an email to the Times that Amazon’s allegations are false.

“We are not selling fake reviews. However we do provide Unbiased and Honest reviews on all the products,” Collins wrote. “And this is not illegal at all.”

According to Internet Retailer, Amazon wants the sites shut down. The e-commerce giant is also asking for damages exceeding $100,000 per site.

Amazon claims the sites are selling reviews (for $19 to $22 each) for products that were never received by the writers.

“The sites add phony reviews gradually to avoid detection by Amazon, and advise retailer clients to ship empty boxes to the paid ‘reviewers’ to make it appear the review comes from a buyer,” IR said.

Amazon said this is an example of a phony five-star review:

Cool Charger

Bought this for my Galaxy phone and I have to say, this is a pretty cool USB cord! 🙂 I like the lights in the cord as it puts off a cool glowing effect in my room at night and it makes it much easier to see, thanks for the great product!

It can be difficult to differentiate real product reviews from fictitious reviews. Your best bet is to only trust reviews marked “Amazon Verified Purchase.” As the name implies, those reviews are made by customers that purchased the item on Amazon.com. Several Amazon marketplace experts told IR that up to 40 percent of unverified product reviews are fake.

James Thomson, managing director at Marketplace Accelerator and a former marketplace professional at Amazon, said Amazon’s lawsuit will have a negligible impact on fictional reviews on its site.

“It will be a momentary blip because most of these sites will reinvent themselves tomorrow,” Thomson said.

I frequently shop on Amazon, and often my final purchasing decisions are largely based on other shoppers’ product reviews. Though it may be an exercise in futility, as Thomson suggested, I still appreciate Amazon trying to crack down on the phony reviewers.

How much do you rely on online product reviews when making a purchase? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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