Amazon Is Trying To Crack Down On Fraudulent Reviews. They’re Thriving In Facebook Groups
Third-party sellers are evading detection by hopping between tech platforms
The halloween cat collar (three pack, adjustable strap, ghost pendant and bell) has conspicuously rave reviews on Amazon. “Three for $10 is a steal!” reads one. “They seem to be made of quality material and the clasps don’t break away as easily as some other ones.”
The review, like many on the e-commerce platform, is fake. It was written by Jason Wawiernia, a search engine optimization specialist in Michigan. After he left his glowing assessment of the product, Wawiernia received a refund through PayPal, in direct violation of Amazon’s policies governing ratings and reviews.
Amazon banned incentivized reviews in 2016, but it’s still a rampant problem on the platform. On September 4th, a Financial Times investigation revealed nine of the top 10 reviewers in the UK were engaged in suspicious activity, leaving scores of five-star reviews for unknown Chinese brands. “Many of the same items were seen by the FT in groups and forums offering free products or money in exchange for reviews,” the article read.
For third-party sellers, good ratings are critical for success on the platform, so it’s no surprise some companies are buying them. Today, Amazon controls between 38 to 42 percent of the e-commerce market, and over half the products sold on the platform come from third-party sellers. Incentivized reviews aren’t always a sign that a company is hawking cheap products. But they indicate the lengths sellers will go to try to stand out on the platform.
Amazon runs a sanctioned version of this exchange through its Vine program. There, the company chooses top reviewers to receive free products. It notes vendors “cannot influence, modify or edit the reviews.”
But this program isn’t big enough to help the vast majority of sellers. In recent years, vendors have turned to Facebook and WeChat groups to find people willing to write reviews. Sellers post photos of products, then ask people to message them, with the reassurance they’ll get a refund after leaving a positive review.
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