A Blog by Jonathan Low


Apr 17, 2015

Amazon Sues To Prevent Fake Reviews

On the internet, as we've been told, no one knows you're a dog. And, increasingly, no one knows whether that review you're reading, positive or negative, is real.

The growth of sites selling fake reviews to either bolster someone's book, movie, cafe or app - or, more surreptitiously, to trash it, has become sufficiently widespread and pernicious that Amazon is suing enterprises it accuses of promoting the practice.

Interestingly, the danger Amazon cites is to their brand. By extension - since a brand is a promise to the consumer - Amazon fears that their credibility as an objective purveyor of almost everything is at risk. And they are right to be concerned since consumers will tend to perceive that Amazon's promotion of the product - and its publication of the reviews - is both a verification of the review and an implicit endorsement of whatever's being sold.Sales growth is at stake.

That may sound unfair to some and the legal assumptions may be questionable. But this is the web we're talking about. Compared to buzz, since when has what's right or legal been the key to success? JL

Jonathan Stempel reports in Reuters:

"These reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon's brand," the complaint said.

Amazon.com Inc has sued four websites to stop them from selling fake, positive product reviews.

In a complaint filed on Wednesday in King County Superior Court in Washington, Amazon said the bogus reviews undermine a system that the Seattle-based online retailer launched 20 years ago to help shoppers using its website decide what to buy.
Four- and five-star reviews can aid sales, especially if customers perceive them as unbiased.
But Amazon said the defendants are misleading customers, and through their activity generating improper profit for themselves and a "handful" of dishonest sellers and manufacturers.
"While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon's brand," the complaint said.
The defendants include Jay Gentile, a California man who allegedly runs buyazonreviews.com, as well as unnamed operators of buyamazonreviews.com, bayreviews.net and buyreviewsnow.com, according to the complaint.
Amazon said the defendants have caused reviews to be posted on its website intermittently, through a "slow drip" designed to evade its detection systems, at a typical cost of $19 to $22 per review.
The defendants did not immediately respond on Thursday to requests for comment or could not immediately be reached.
Amazon's lawsuit accuses the various defendants of trademark infringement, and violations of federal anti-cybersquatting and Washington consumer protection laws.
It seeks a halt to the alleged fake reviews and improper use of the Amazon name, as well as compensatory and triple damages.
Yelp Inc, which lets consumers post reviews to its website, on Feb. 13 sued yelpdirector.com's alleged operators, accusing them of trying to help businesses through posting positive reviews and suppressing bad reviews. The defendants have not responded to that complaint, court records show.
The case is Amazon.com Inc v. Gentile et al, Washington State Superior Court, King County, No. 15-2-08579-4.


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