A UK consumer organization posed as a seller on Amazon Marketplace and was contacted by websites openly offering fake reviews. A thriving industry, it turns out.
Good (fake) reviews allow sellers to manipulate the online marketplace’s rating system. Products with a good rating end up at the top of the search results list. If a product has less good reviews, it ends up at the bottom.
The British consumer organization Which? went to investigate. As a purported seller on Amazon, it subscribed to 10 websites that were openly peddling all kinds of services to manipulate product ratings on Amazon.
For example, one website boasted that it could deliver a product ‘Amazon’s Choice’ status in 10 to 14 days, with a campaign of fake reviews. This is a sought-after quality label for highly valued and well-priced products.
Another player claimed he had won $ 7.3 million in refunds from posting bad reviews.
Others then sell contact information and social media profiles to rogue reviewers.
Army of fake reviewers
To give you an idea of the scale of the fake review trade, five of the companies surveyed employed an army of 702,000 ‘product reviewers’. These individuals typically receive small payments or free products in return for posting positive reviews.
Which report? explains in detail how it works. The German company AMZTigers, for example, sells individual reviews at 15 euros each. In the good German entrepreneurial tradition, it is also possible to buy in bulk: 50 reviews for 699 euros, or 1,000 pieces for 8,999 euros for example.
AMZDiscover, in turn, sells reviewers’ email addresses to merchants who can then contact those individuals directly, the report said. The company claims that some of its customers, Amazon sellers, have already downloaded 40,000 email addresses from potential reviewers, Which?
For Amazon, mopping is with the tap open. In September, the Financial Times reported that the sales platform had removed 20,000 fake reviews from its website. However, this has clearly not eradicated the practice.