Amazon Files Suit Over Fake Reviews

Fake reviews, including fake book reviews, are a perennial problem on Amazon.com and other retail sites. Both authors and publishers have used fake reviews to boost their profiles and sell more books.

This has been a known problem since at least 2012, and Amazon used to fight it by removing reviews which were identified as fake. But now Amazon is taking a more active role. The retailer has filed a lawsuit against a man which Amazon claims is the operator of several sites which sell fake 4 and 5 star customer reviews on Amazon.

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The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court, and names Jay Gentile as the owner or operator of several sites, including buyazonreviews.com, buyreviewsnow.com, buyamazonreviews.com, and bayreviews.net (note: two of the sites are not operational). The lawsuit also mentions several John Doe accomplices.

"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 lawsuit says. "Amazon strictly prohibits any attempt to manipulate customer reviews and actively polices its website to remove false, misleading, and inauthentic reviews."

According to the filing, the sites sell both regular reviews and verified purchase reviews. In the latter case the reviewer and the person buying the review conspire to fake a purchase, sometimes sending an empty box to the "customer" posting the fake review.

The lawsuit explains, "Indeed, one of the review sites – buyazonreviews.com – even chastised a reviewer for complaining about not receiving the product, admitting, 'All our reviewers know of the process and I am not sure as to why she sent this to you but I will ensure it does not happen in the future."

That site is not in operation at this time, so I can't verify the claim, but one of the two sites I checked did offer verified purchase reviews.

On buyamazonreviews.com the verified purchase review option can either cost extra or be included (if the retail price is low enough). Another site, buyreviewsnow.com, sells just straight reviews at $6 to $8 each, depending on the volume. The text of the reviews are supplied by the buyer.

Amazon's lawsuit alleges unfair competition and deceptive acts, trademark violations, and other allegations. Amazon is asking for damages as well as an accounting of the alleged profits received by Gentile and his accomplices from selling the fake reviews.

If you're an author or publisher who buys fake reviews, now would be a good time to stop. If Amazon is suing the person who sells fake reviews then they have already invested a huge expense in investigating the problem.

Chances are they have also been running a honeypot operation; I certainly would.

If I were Amazon, I would have quietly bought a few thousand reviews and used the data to identify those who buy the reviewers and the "customers" who post fake reviews. By cross-referencing the data Amazon can potentially identify thousands of accounts which posted fake reviews as well as hundreds of sellers who may have bought them.

I don't know what action would be proper against the sellers identified, but anyone who has _provably_ posted fake reviews deserve to have all of their reviews deleted. While some of the reviews may be real, their authenticity has been contaminated by the fake reviews and they can't be trusted.

Geekwire

image by protohiro

About Nate Hoffelder (11579 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

6 Comments on Amazon Files Suit Over Fake Reviews

  1. Not before time Amazon. Now how about eliminating the damnable Troll reviews while you are at it?

  2. From the consumer’s perspective it’s not that relevant.
    People are not all that informed and rational so the quality of real reviews is terrible to begin with.
    Marketing is another major factor impacting the objectivity of reviews. Apple, for example , can charge 2-3 times for a lesser product and sell a lot more than others and the so called reviews would reflect that.
    Negative user reviews might be more of a problem since people look at user reviews to maybe spot problems with the product that were not noticed by review sites.
    To be fair for tech products Amazon can’t even list minimal specs , it would be so much easier if they did and users didn’t had to Google for it. They could go far beyond that too and provide ample resources for customers that care to research the product (links to reviews, videos , official product page and so on). Amazon is 2 decades behind when it comes to helping the customers find products and info.

  3. I hope they don’t intend to go after the humorous reviews!, like the ones for this t-shirt!

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Mountain-Three-Short-Sleeve/dp/B002HJ377A

    But seriously, if they can figure out which reviews are bought and paid for, getting rid of them would be great. They don’t help customers any, and they harm authors who don’t buy reviews because they make all good reviews suspect.

  4. It would also help if advertisers didn’t have a “threshold” review requirement. A lot of sites won’t accept an ad/ad money from authors unless they have 5, 10 or even 100 reviews. As a means of separating the wheat from the chaff, this is not a good business model, but it’s fairly common.

  5. As a reader, I use reviews as a filter, to see whether I’ll bother to read the sample. But it’s the sample that determines whether or not i go onto buy the book.
    As a writer, I’m aware that reviews are generally genuine and I may gain some insight to my readers by reading them. They also can be a factor in determining the success or otherwise of a book.
    But, taken rationally, reviews have always been suspect. In the days when only professional review appeared – in the media – they were always an outlet used to display the views and prejudices of the critic. They were often no more than an excuse for the critic to attempt to demonstrate their ‘cleverness’, and often had little value regarding the book under review. So, perhaps we shouldn’t be too concerned about all the lying, sycophancy and downright cheating that appears to constitute at least a part of the world of modern reviewing. In the end, people will read our books based on our own relationships and the word of mouth of those who read and enjoy the work.

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Amazon Files Suit Over Fake Reviews | Ink, Bits, & Pixels | Have We Had Help?
  2. Round Up: Amazon Crushes Authors Careers Beneath the Boots of a New Review Policy | Ink, Bits, & Pixels

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