Amazon sellers have artificially boosted influential customers’ ratings of their products by co-opting positive reviews of unrelated items, a leading consumer magazine has reported.
Which? said nine of the 10 highest-rated headphones on Amazon carried rave reviews that were actually for products like stuffed animals, puzzles, and umbrellas. Among them, two bore the “Amazon’s Choice” mark of approval.
Which? said all nine were little-known brands, while only one established brand – Bose, which was ranked eighth – showed no signs of review abuse.
“Unscrupulous companies are exploiting weaknesses in Amazon’s review system, leaving shoppers at risk of purchasing products spurred on by thousands of fake five-star reviews,” said Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?.
The magazine said its study found the highest-rated headphones available, which had five stars and were marked “Amazon’s Choice”, had 40 reviews, none of which referenced the headphones.
“All reviews, including three reviews clearly showing product photos, were for ‘plushie’ toys – a ‘cute’ stuffed animal apparently loved by children and adults alike”, Which? reported.
The practice is called review merging. Online sellers can legitimately adopt it to gather all reviews of closely related products – such as different colors of the same model – in one place. But which one? reported that merging reviews for unrelated products was against Amazon’s terms and conditions.
Which? said it “focused its investigation on a single popular product category, but also saw the problem in other categories, including smartphone chargers with reviews for surge protectors, tweezers reinforced with reviews for non-stick kitchen foil and blackhead removing nose strips bolstered by wig reviews”.
Concha said: “Once again, this reinforces the importance of the CMA’s ongoing investigation into fake reviews to get to the bottom of things and ensure that major shopping sites protect people from these practices. unfair.
“The Government has also announced its intention to tackle fake reviews as part of its consumer and competition reforms and is expected to introduce new laws, in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech, to ban such exploitative practices as soon as possible. as possible.”
An Amazon spokesperson told the BBC: “We have now taken appropriate enforcement action against the product listings and sellers in question.
“We have clear safeguards in place to prevent products from being grouped together incorrectly, either due to human error or abuse.
“Our proactive measures automatically detect and block the vast majority of abuse in our store: however, we are disappointed when malicious actors evade our system and we will continue to innovate and invest in our tools and processes.”