Apparently, there are various services out there which provide fake reviews for products in exchange for payment. Who knew? Amazon did, and it may be the first company to take a stand via a lawsuit to combat this practice:
According to GeekWire, the e-commerce giant has filed a lawsuit against a man known as Jay Gentile from California, who was identified as the operator of several websites that peddle product reviews, including bayreviews.net, buyreviewsnow.com, buyazonreviews.com and buyamazonreviews.com. The Seattle Times, however, notes that while the last two are included in the lawsuit, they are owned by different people, and that buyamazonreviews.com belongs to someone named Mark Collins.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were “offering fake verified reviews for a price and . . . telling potential customers that they can just ship empty boxes to his writers for the website to recognize the purchase.” According to sections on www.buyamazonreviews.com explaining the nature of the business:
Never has it been easier to get multiple 4 and 5 star reviews on your Amazon product page. We provide real reviews from aged accounts with real buying activity. Most products in the Amazon marketplace will never even be seen. The more positive reviews you have the better your chances are.
The website also explains that:
A purchase of your product is not required for us to post a review. If you would like a verified purchase review however we can buy your product first. If the cost is $2.00 or less we will cover the price. If it is more than this you will need to make arrangements with us to reimburse the cost. We are only accepting very limited amounts of verified purchase reviews, please contact us before ordering if you are interested in these.
The site also provides pricing information for various quantities of reviews:
Thus, it appears that buyamazonreviews.com is quite up front and public about the nature of its business. Presumably, someone has at least looked into whether the practice is legal or in compliance with the website’s terms of service. It will be interesting to see whether the business model is defensible in court.
We have several questions regarding the legal issues surrounding the case. For example, does Amazon have standing to file suit essentially on behalf of its customers?Presumably, if the “enhanced” reviews drove more sales, Amazon actually experienced increased sales. What if a product for which review are purchased is simply a great product, and the review from a normal customer would have been a four or five star rating anyway? Along those same lines, if the customers who actually purchased the products because of the high reviews, and the customers ended up liking the product, are there damages? What if the reviews at issue actually caused Amazon to have increased sales? As noted above, we suspect this may be an abuse of the terms of service, and Amazon is just policing things to ensure that its reviews are intellectually honest. We’ll see.