Amazon has had enough. Those paid five-star reviews cluttering up product pages aren’t just annoying to you, the discerning online consumer–Amazon hates them, too. In its quest to mop up the mess and create a more authentic buying experience for users, the online retail giant is upping the ante on paid product reviews: They’re suing.
Amazon recently filed a lawsuit against a California man named Jay Gentile, who is accused of running websites that sell positive reviews on Amazon, according to The Seattle Times. Gentile reportedly runs sites like buyamazonreviews.com and buyazonreviews.com, which offers 5-star Amazon product reviews for as little as $19 per review. And with a domain name like that, Gentile will likely have a hard time dodging the charges.
In the suit, Amazon is claiming the sites in question infringe on its intellectual property and violate the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act as well as Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. Amazon is based in Seattle.
Explains the Times:
[The suit] accuses Gentile of promising a customer that the company would “provide as many five-star reviews as the purchaser wanted,” and that he also promised to “slow drip” them onto Amazon’s product pages so that the company would have a “more difficult time detecting them.”
The suit also alleges Gentile told the customer that the seller could “simply ship empty packages in an effort to fool Amazon into believing the reviewer was a ‘verified purchaser.’” It says the websites sell its service for $19 to $22 per review.
Not a bad deal for something that could potentially have a dramatic impact on merchants’ revenue.
According to the Times, the suit is the first time Amazon has tried to crack down on fake reviews since debuting the review platform. But the practice of trying to game Amazon reviews is practically as old as the system itself. The incentive is obvious: A solid average rating means more purchases for merchants in a system where customers rely on online reviews when choosing one product over another. Over the years, Amazon has quashed various attempts to flood the site with bogus reviews using automated means, leading folks to try more subtle, nuanced methods of influencing product scores. Hence Gentile’s “slow drip” technique.
Left unaddressed, efforts like this stand to pose a threat to the e-commerce giant’s bottom line: Trick enough people into buying sub-par products, and they’ll eventually start looking elsewhere.
But it’s clear that Amazon–long famous for meticulous attention to the minutiae of customer experience–is willing to be aggressive in weeding out paid reviews.
[via The Seattle Times]