Amazon is cracking down on phoney product reviews, with the company not only banning them on its site, but is also insisting they were illegal.
The company on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Seattle's King County Superior Court against four websites for allegedly publishing fraudulent reviews that distorted its product ratings.
The move, which comes as the first for Amazon, signals the company's growing intolerance for fake positive reviews louder and clearer than ever before. The suit alleged that fabricated 4- and 5-star product appraisals diluted Amazon's brand and negatively impacted sellers on its site who chose not to subvert the system by paying for fraudulent reviews.
''While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon's brand,'' the suit states. ''Amazon strictly prohibits any attempt to manipulate customer reviews and actively polices its website to remove false, misleading, and inauthentic reviews. Despite substantial efforts to stamp out the practice, an unhealthy ecosystem is developing outside of Amazon to supply inauthentic reviews.''
According to The Seattle Times, Mark Collins, who owned buyamazonreviews.com (which according to the suit was run by Gentile, though Collins claimed to have never heard of him), said the service he provided was not illegal. According to Collins, buyamazonreviews.com merely assisted third-party Amazon sellers in amassing reviews. He told the newspaper that the company did not sell fake reviews, though the company provided unbiased and honest review on all the products which was not illegal at all.
Fake glowing reviews, aimed at boosting consumer confidence and in turn hopefully increasing sales, had long been a problem for Amazon and other popular websites, like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
In the event Amazon won the war in court, it would receive triple damages and attorney fees and, more importantly, the alleged fraudsters would be forced to quit hawking Amazon reviews.
According to commentators, reviews played a significant role in influencing the opinion of potential consumers, who sometimes did not have much other feedback to turn to.
The retailer had also claimed that the so-called paid reviews avoided detection because of the slow rate of posting, and never aroused suspicion that a larger number of reviews might have.
Additionally, Amazon had also accused these sites of offences such as local consumer protection statutes violation, trademark infringement, and laws of cybersquatting.
The four sites mentioned in the court are buyazonreview.com, bayreviews.net, buyamazonreviews.com, buyreviewsnow.com and two of the cited had gone offline after the legal action was taken.