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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Amazon Sues Websites Selling Product Reviews

The home page of, one of four websites sued by AMZN -0.23% for selling product reviews.
Fake reviews are a staple of many Internet sites, and operators of shopping, travel and other websites have long sought to eliminate them.
The Web’s biggest merchant,, this week went a step further, filing suit against four sites that it claimed are selling positive product reviews in bulk. Amazon said the practice damages the e-commerce giant’s credibility with customers.
In the suit, filed Wednesday, Amazon said the websites offer glowing reviews even when reviewers haven’t purchased or used the products. Amazon said the sites attempted to cover their tracks, including encouraging clients to make phony shipments to trip up Amazon software designed to verify a reviewer’s purchase.
“Despite substantial efforts to stamp out the practice, an unhealthy ecosystem is developing outside of Amazon to supply inauthentic reviews,” Amazon said in the suit, filed in King County Superior Court in Washington state. The suit was earlier reported by the Seattle Times.
Amazon has previously sought to police reviews, including eliminating many made by authors’ family members and friends.
An Amazon spokeswoman and its outside attorney declined to comment. Attempts to reach the operators of the websites —, and — were unsuccessful. advertises “verified and regular” reviews for $19 to $22 each, depending on the size of the order. The site specifies that “all of our reviewers are actual people that try your product and deliver high quality optimized unbiased reviews.”
Other sites offer similar services for less. On marketplace, numerous posters offer “positive” or “five-star” reviews for $5 each. is not named in Amazon’s suit.
Local directory Yelp this year filed suit against a firm it said was selling fake reviews – not one of those sued by Amazon — and has previously taken action against similar companies.
Positive reviews or star ratings can help boost a product’s sales. A 2011 Harvard Business School case study, for instance, found that a one-star increase in a review on Yelp lifts a restaurant’s revenue by 5% to 9%.
But review systems are tempting forums for businesses to try to boost their own image or take down that of a competitor’s; a 2009 Wall Street Journal story chronicled a DeLonghi employee’s rave reviews of DeLonghi espresso machines.
Seattle-based Amazon said in its lawsuit that ersatz reviews represent a small portion of those on its site. “Amazon scours its site for fake reviews, removes them when it finds them, and suspends sellers that post or purchase fake reviews,” the company said.

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