According tomedia The Verge, some of Amazon’s “good reviews” in the UK appear to have made false reviews, leaving tens of thousands of five-star reviews in exchange for money or free products. The company deleted 20,000 product reviews after an investigation by the Financial Times. According to an analysis by the Financial Times, Justin Fryer, Amazon’s number one “good reviewer”, left a five-star rating on average every four hours in August. Many of these comments were left at random for Chinese companies. Fryer then appears to have resold the products on eBay.
Such scams usually start with messaging apps such as social networks and Telegram, where companies can meet potential critics. Once a contact is established, the reviewer will choose a free product and then wait a few days to write a five-star review. After the comments are posted, they get a full refund and sometimes an extra payment.
Amazon has a special rule prohibiting the posting of comments in exchange for “any form of compensation (including free or discounted products).” But nine of the UK’s 10 most-rated judges appear to have breached the code to engage in suspicious activity. The 20,000 comments that were deleted were written by seven of the 10 most acclaimed judges.
The company alerted Fryer’s activities in early August. At least one Amazon user reported the man’s suspicious comments to CEO Jeff Bezos. The user was told the company would investigate, but did not take action until Friday. Fryer reportedly insisted that he was never paid to publish false five-star reviews. He also said the “unused” and “unothoded” products he listed on eBay were additional.
Fake reviews have been a problem on Amazon.com for years. In July, The Markup found that sellers engaged in a variety of strategies designed to manipulate their ratings on the platform, including “comment hijacking”, where old ratings were attached to new, often unrelated, products.
During the New Crown pandemic, the problem will only get worse as more and more people shop online. In May, 58 per cent of Amazon products in the UK appeared to have fake reviews, according to Fakespot, a company that analyses fraud. “The scale of this fraud is staggering,” Saoud Khalifah, Fakespot’s chief executive, told the Financial Times. “Amazon in the UK has a much higher proportion of fake reviews than other platforms.”
In a statement emailed to The Verge, an Amazon spokesman said the company analyzes public comments and processes 10 million submitted reviews a week. “We want Amazon customers to be confident that the reviews they read are true and relevant,” they said. “We have clear policies for reviewers and sales partners that prohibit abuse of our community functions, and we suspend, prohibit, and take legal action against those who violate these policies.”