Amazon has announced it is taking legal action against fake reviews broker Extreme Rebate, which has targeted its stores in the US, Europe, Japan, and Canada.
It follows similar action earlier this year that resulted in other services – Fivestar Marketing, Matronex, and AppSally being prevented from targeting Amazon customers in the UK, US, and other sites in Europe.
Separately the UK government has announced plans to give the Competition and Markets Authority, the regulator in this space, stronger powers to protect consumers from an avalanche of fake reviews found online.
Which? has repeatedly exposed companies that allow unscrupulous individuals to purchase fake reviews for websites that use customer reviews to promote products and services.
In March last year, we set up a and showed just how easy it is to buy fake reviews – populating the business with five star ratings and revealing a web of reviewers across nearly 50 legitimate businesses that likely used the same service.
Purchasing reviews is easy – customers simply choose a 'package' of reviews, the star rating for each, the frequency at which they want them distributed, and can even write the reviews themselves.
It's one of numerous tactics unscrupulous businesses and sellers can use to artificially inflate ratings, and mislead consumers online.
Amazon says the legal action is part of a 'continued effort to ensure a safe and trustworthy shopping experience'. It has clear policies that prohibit review abuse, including paying for reviewing and soliciting only positive reviews, and has a team of 10,000 employees globally who work to protect its stores from fraud and abuse, including fake reviews.
It called the issue of review brokers an 'industry focused on posting fake and inauthentic reviews at scale', approaching customers through their own websites to solicit them to write misleading or inflated reviews in exchange for money, free products, or other incentives. Amazon found that Extreme Rebate runs fraudulent schemes that provide free products, paying up to $4 for a five-star review that's at least 15 words long, and includes pictures or videos.
Its hope is that while the various ways in which fake reviews can be created makes combatting them a complex challenge, taking legal action against these sites sends a clear message that bad actors will be held accountable.
Which? is campaigning to stop fake reviews, and for the UK government to act to give the regulator stronger powers to protect consumers.
Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:
'It is positive that Amazon has taken legal action against some of the fake review brokers that Which? has previously exposed for misleading consumers. However, our recent investigation found that there are still unscrupulous businesses exploiting weaknesses with Amazon’s review system, leaving shoppers at risk of buying products boosted by thousands of bogus five-star reviews.
'The CMA’s ongoing fake reviews investigation must root out any unfair practices being used to manipulate shoppers and ensure people are protected when they are using major shopping sites.
'The government has announced that it plans to give the CMA stronger powers to protect consumers from an avalanche of fake reviews. The inclusion of these measures as part of a Consumer and Competition Bill in next week’s Queen’s Speech is vital.'