Amazon has had enough. For the very first time in its 20 year history of offering a reviews platform for the products sold on its site, Amazon has laid down the gauntlet and is suing web operators who allegedly create and sell phony Amazon reviews.
“A very small minority of sellers and manufacturers attempt to gain unfair competitive advantages by creating false, misleading, and inauthentic customer reviews for their products on Amazon.com,” an article in MediaPost reported that Amazon stated in its lawsuit filed recently in King County Superior Court in Washington. “While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon.”
According to the suit, Amazon alleged the following four websites bought and sold reviews: buyazonreviews.com, buyamazonreviews.com, bayreviews.net and buyreviewsnow.com. Amazon alleges these sites are in violation of cyber-squatting, trademark infringement among other offenses that Amazon laid out. Amazon also noted that the reviewers could write glowing reviews – whether or not they used the products.
MediaPost reported that Jay Gentile, the CEO of buyazonreviews.com told a customer that he would “promise to provide as many five-star reviews as the purchaser wanted,” and also “promised to ‘slow drip’ them onto the product pages so that Amazon would have a more difficult time detecting them.”
Allegedly, MediaPost reported that Gentile also said “…the reviewers at buyazonreviews.com do not actually need to receive the products they are reviewing, and the purchaser could simply ship empty packages in an effort to fool Amazon into believing the reviewer was a ‘verified purchaser.’”
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Buyazonreviews.com advertises “verified and regular” reviews for $19 to $22 each. The site specifies that “all of our reviewers are actual people that try your product and deliver high quality optimized unbiased reviews.”
Many in academia state that even a one-star increase could boost business. The WSJ reported that a “…2011 Harvard Business School case study…found that a one-star increase in a review on Yelp lifts a restaurant’s revenue by 5% to 9%.
Amazon is not the only site that has sued for phony reviews. Yelp also sued last February three Web site operators who allegedly told businesses that for a fee they could inflate their reviews. Yelp has also taken several on-site measures to discourage fake reviews on Yelp.