• Daniyar Kylyzhov

Financial Times: Amazon reviewers make money on false reviews, Bezos in the know

The Financial Times conducted an investigation that revealed that top Amazon reviewers left product reviews in exchange for money. As a result, the site removed more than 20 thousand such reviews. Seven of the top ten UK reviewers were contributors.

Among those whose reviews had to be removed was Justin Fryer, who is ranked # 1 on Amazon.co.uk and only wrote reviews for products worth £ 15,000 or $ 19,700 in August alone. He left reviews on smartphones and electric scooters, as well as exercise equipment. A five-star review from this reviewer came in approximately every four hours.

In the vast majority of cases, these were products of little-known Chinese brands. Those, it turns out, often offer to send product reviewers for free in exchange for positive reviews. Fryer himself subsequently resold many of the items on eBay, earning nearly £ 20,000 since June. Moreover, on the new site, the goods were marked as unpacked, although, in the video of his reviews, Fryer took them out of the box and tested them. On August 13, he sold an electric scooter for £ 485.99, although he posted a review of the same product on Amazon in seven days, claiming that the "toy" was liked "so much that they bought a second one for the bride."

At least two other top reviewers deleted the review history after reporters exposed and contacted Fryer. At the same time, the reviews themselves remained available on the site until Amazon removed them. They promised that they are ready to take further measures if there is evidence of violations of the law. Amazon noted that they are already using AI technology to identify fraudsters, as well as to monitor user reports.

It is noted that the problem of fake reviews worsened during the pandemic. So, according to the estimates of the analytical group of online reviews Fakespot, the peak came in May, when 58% of products on Amazon.co.uk were accompanied by fake reviews.

Amazon has been aware of Fryer's account activity since at least early August, when one of the site's users sent an email to CEO Jeff Bezos, according to reporters. The site employee replied that the letter had been received by the addressee, and the complaint about the account of Fryer and other reviewers would be considered. However, in the end, the company removed only those reviews that it directly complained about.

However, Amazon's guidelines explicitly prohibit creating, modifying, or publishing content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products), or on behalf of anyone else. An exception is the invite-only scheme, where the top reviewers receive free products, regardless of the content of their review.

Observers say Amazon's algorithms drive positive reviews, as they are a critical factor in propelling products up the rankings and helping them get the Amazon Choice badge.

To get five-star reviews, companies turn to Telegram chatbots, which were created to streamline the process. The creator of one of them reported that his bot alone processed more than 16 thousand such reviews last year. Interested reviewers then select the free product they want, order it, and a few days later upload the review and receive a full refund - usually via PayPal.

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