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Amazon sues 2 companies over fake reviews

The companies are running fradulent schemes on Amazon's marketplace for third-party sellers, Amazon alleges.

Amazon sues 2 companies over fake reviews
black Samsung Galaxy smartphone displaying Amazon logo

Amazon is taking legal action aimed at shutting down a pair of entities it says are spreading fake reviews of merchandise on retail channels.

The company said it filed a lawsuit against AppSally and Rebatest, which it said were two of the largest so-called fake review brokers. These entities orchestrate fake reviews on sites like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Etsy in a bid to mislead consumers.

“Fake review brokers attempt to profit by deceiving unknowing consumers and creating an unfair competitive advantage that harms our selling partners,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon VP of WW Customer Trust & Partner Support, in a statement. “We know how valuable trustworthy reviews are to our customers. That is why we are holding these review fraudsters accountable. While we prevent millions of suspicious reviews from ever appearing in our store, these lawsuits target the source.”

Retail channels such as Amazon offer product reviews to offer consumers a chance to leave notes about their experience and satisfaction with a product. Amazon retains credibility from the reviews being authentic, but the platform has discovered a wide-ranging enterprise devoted to offering fake reviews that hype up products in recent years. The fake reviews are an industry unto themselves.

The brokers in question allegedly connect third-party sellers on Amazon’s marketplace with customers who are willing to leave a positive review. It’s all incentivized with payment, or free products. In all, Amazon said it conducted an investigation that found fake review brokers have up to 900,000 members willing to write fraudulent testimonials.

Amazon describes the companies named in its lawsuit this way:

“For example, the fake review site AppSally sells fake reviews for as low as at $20 and instructs bad actors to ship empty boxes to people willing to write fake reviews, and to provide AppSally with photos to be uploaded alongside their reviews. The fraudulent scheme run by Rebatest will only pay people writing 5-star reviews after their fake reviews are approved by the bad actors attempting to sell those items.”

Amazon has been waging a multiyear battle against the fake reviews, and uses a combination of investigative talent and machine learning in a bid to root them out. The company also says it can stop fake reviews before they are seen on the platform, and stopped 200 million from going public in 2020.

It has not been a stranger to legal action to stop the companies behind fake reviews either, most recently shutting down companies in Germany and the UK last year. The fake reviews have also caught the attention of federal regulators. Platforms including Amazon were warned last year to crack down, or face fines.

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