Amazon pledges to fight fake reviews

By Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent

Amazon says it has taken legal action against companies selling fake positive reviews for products on its website after a new report claimed four and five-star reviews were being sold online.

An investigation by the Daily Mail claimed rogue marketing firms were selling positive reviews for around £13 each.

One German company claimed to have 3,000 UK testers who were paid to publish glowing reviews to the site.

The testers are paid for the review and refunded the cost of buying the product, the report says, with purchase necessary in order for a review to be classified as verified by Amazon.

Fake reviews are illegal in the UK under consumer protection law.

Responding to the investigation, Amazon said it had already taken legal action against some firms and would continue to fight such activity.

“Amazon is relentless in our efforts to protect the integrity of reviews. Any attempt to manipulate customer reviews is strictly prohibited and in the last year alone, we’ve spent over 400 million (US dollars) to protect customers from reviews abuse, fraud, and other forms of misconduct,” a spokesman for the e-commerce giant said.

“Our objective is to catch and remove abusive reviews before a customer ever sees it and in the last month over 99% of the reviews read by customers were authentic.

“To do this, we use a combination of automated technology and teams of trained human investigators who analyse multiple data points such as reviewer, seller, and/or product history to determine authenticity.

“We work hard to enrich the shopping experience for our customers and selling partners with authentic reviews written by real customers, and we will continue to innovate to ensure customers can trust that every review on Amazon is authentic.”

In October, a report from consumer watchdog Which? said Amazon was failing to stem a “flood” of suspicious and fake reviews on its marketplace, and that these risked misleading millions of customers.

The watchdog studied a selection of devices made and sold by relatively unknown Chinese brands, all of which had “exceptionally high” ratings on Amazon, and in some cases even the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” endorsement.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said at the time: “Customer reviews should be a helpful resource for shoppers choosing what to buy and billions of pounds are spent every year based on this feedback, so it’s vital that Amazon takes stronger action to ensure people can trust the information they see online and aren’t duped into buying poor quality products.”

According to the Competition and Markets Authority, online reviews influence an estimated £23 billion of transactions a year in the UK alone.