Are Amazon Sellers offering bribes to delete bad reviews?
The issues of fake reviews and incentives to write positive feedback has long been a major issue for Amazon - but a new agenda has arisen for the site in recent weeks.
A major report in the Wall Street Journal chronicled how some third-party Sellers have been able to directly email customers who have left negative reviews on their products, and offer incentives for them to be deleted.
The initial story focused on Katherine Scott, who bought an oil spray bottle for cooking which didn’t work in the way that had been advertised, so she understandably left a negative review. A week later, she got an email that looked to be from the oil sprayer company offering a refund if she deleted the review.
Scott asked for a refund but didn’t believe that she should delete her review. Another representative from the oil spray company contacted her the next day and declined to issue her refund. “A bad review is a fatal blow to us,” read the email, which was quoted in the WSJ report. “Could you help me delete the review? If you can, I want to refund $20 to you to express my gratitude.”
This was double the amount that Scott had initially paid for the product, and shortly afterwards, she received another plea from the same email address.
Amazon insisted to the Wall Street Journal that it does not share customer email addresses with third-party sellers, and highlighted the fact that it removed some 200 million fake reviews last year. But the respected paper outlined how third-party Sellers could possibly be finding ways to email customers. Scott told the WSJ that a free gift insert was included in her package, which asked for her email address as well as her order ID.
Since then, other customers have come forward with similar issues, while a report in Gizmodo states that there are companies that offer a service to sellers that involves finding the contact information of customers.
Thompson and Holt senior case manager Laura Monk believes the recent reports have caused an issue for Amazon. She explained: “For a company that has made so much about clamping down on the practise of fake reviews and incentives for positive reviews - and has been successful to an extent in doing so - this is a definite embarrassment.
“For a major media player like the Wall Street Journal to dedicate time and resources to exposing this practise is not good publicity for Amazon. The terms and conditions clearly state that third-party Sellers are prohibited from demanding that their customers edit or delete reviews. And Sellers are not allowed to include inserts like the one cited in the report.
“Issues like this illustrate that the battle against review manipulation is a very real one that Amazon continues to wrestle with. Until they deploy systems that adequately stamp it out, and prevent these kind of reports emerging in the main stream media, it will be an issue that continues to be a problem for them.”
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