The Danger of Paying for Reviews

This is not about morals or ethics. This is your business on the line. And Amazon is not a fair playing ground. So, why should you play fair?

You may be tempted to bring in illegitimate reviews. You might even feel forced to do so. As crucial as it might be to sales, it doesn’t outweigh the corporate risk.

What is the risk?

By paying for reviews, a business breaks Amazon’s terms of service. 

As a result, Amazon can take action against the offender. All reviews can be removed from the product page and all future reviews and ratings can be blocked. Amazon can also remove the product from their catalog completely. They have the power and legal right to terminate the seller account and withhold earnings not yet transferred. 

And it gets worse.

Amazon has the right to publicly disclose the business name and cause reputational damage. Amazon can also pursue legal action against the business. 

But, it’s not only Amazon’s rule. 

In the US, a company can face lawful action from the Federal Trade Commission. Per the FTC, positive consumer reviews are a type of endorsement, so such reviews can be unlawful, when they are fake or when a material connection is not adequately disclosed.

How common is it for Amazon or the FTC to take action?

Per Amazon: “Last year, we prevented more than 13 million attempts to leave an inauthentic review and we took action against more than five million bad actors attempting to manipulate reviews.”

When it’s just a number it’s hard to relate. So here are some incidents that have occurred: 

  • In 2015 Amazon sued 1,114 defendants for selling false review services.
  • In 2016 Amazon sued three of its sellers for review abuse.
  • Amazon has also filed at least five lawsuits related to fake-review schemes over the last six years.

And more recently: 

  • In May 2021, Amazon closed more than 50,000 Chinese retail accounts.
  • On October 13, 2021, the FTC sent a Notice of Penalty Offenses to more than 700 companies, the agency is placing them on notice they could incur significant civil penalties—up to $43,792 per violation—if they use endorsements in ways that run counter to prior FTC administrative cases. 

Why do the Federal Trade Commission and Amazon condemn paid reviews?

According to Amazon, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, sellers, and manufacturers have in Amazon.

This ultimately leads to:

Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection says, “Fake reviews and other forms of deceptive endorsements cheat consumers and undercut honest businesses.” “Advertisers will pay a price if they engage in these deceptive practices.”

If consumers know that many online reviews are fake, is it still important? 

93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. Yes, even in 2021, when we know most reviews are fake, we still have the need to read at least two reviews to make a decision.

On Amazon, the algorithm prioritizes products with a greater number of positive reviews. This makes reviews essential for new products that need to be discovered.

What you can do to get reviews on Amazon:

Even though you may feel like it’s ok — asking someone to post a review on a product they bought, and you’ll reward them for their efforts — it’s not okay. Amazon clearly outlines what is not allowed here.

Conversions are the main factor that drives reviews. Industry experts say 0.5 percent to 3 percent of customers provide a rating for products bought online. The best chance you have of increasing your reviews is to increase your conversions. Amazon is making it easier for buyers to leave reviews with one-tap ratings. Verified purchasers can now leave a star rating for a product, without writing any details. This will lead to more accurate product ratings. 

What can you do?

  1. Make sure your product listing clearly communicates the product benefits so consumers are compelled to purchase and ultimately leave a review.
  2. Send a personalized request to customers.
  3. Ask for reviews on social media.

These options can only be done without offering an incentive.

For new products you can also: 

  1. Join Amazon’s Early Review Program which encourages buyers who have already purchased a product to share their authentic experience through reviews.
  2. Join Amazon Vine where Amazon offers your products for free to a group of most trusted reviewers

War on Fake Reviews

Pushed by the FTC, Amazon is upping its game to prevent review abuse and is calling social media companies to join them.It is imperative for social media companies to invest adequately in proactive controls to detect and enforce fake reviews ahead of our reporting the issue to them.”

As Amazon and the FTC apply more resources to cracking down on the issue of fake reviews, we hope that legitimate sellers will be the winners — for the short term too.

Be in touch with our team to see how you can increase the conversion rate of your product and acquire more legitimate reviews. 

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