Amazon launches latest lawsuit to combat fake product reviews

In the age of online shopping, reading the user reviews on a product is almost a necessary step in deciding whether or not to purchase something.

What if you discovered, however, that someone was paid to post that review? That’s exactly what Amazon is trying to avoid with its latest lawsuit.

Filed on Friday, this suit targets several websites that offer verified reviews for products sold on the e-commerce platform, and occasionally solicit reviewers by promising free items and compensation.

A report by TechCrunch names three defendants, including Chris Embry, the owner of Amazonverifiedreviews.com, Jane John-Nwankwo, the owner of Paidbookreviews.org, and a party known as John Does 1-5, which owns Amazonreviewstar.com, Buyamazonreviews.info and reviewconnections.com. Amazon couldn’t identify the site owners in this case.

The article goes on to say that since Amazon’s launch in 1995, users have gone on to leave over 100 million reviews and ratings on the site. Though Amazon employs a team to track down and delete them, the Seattle-based company has struggled with illegitimate reviews in the past.

In April of 2015, Amazon began its fight by launching its first ever class action suit against Jay Gentile, the operator of Buyazonreviews.com. The first suit also targeted a series of sites identified under the name “John Does.”

In October of 2015, following the first set of legal actions, Amazon launched a lawsuit including over 1400 defendants to tackle the rising amount of fake reviews posted to the site. The main targets of this action were individuals who use the online freelance platform Fiverr.com.

Fiverr.com is an online marketplace where users can solicit individuals to complete small written or administrative tasks for them for as little as $5 per project. Individuals can also use the site to put up ads for potential reviewers.

Fiverr was not named in the lawsuit, but rather, the individuals using the site for that purpose or creating a similar online environment in another space were targeted.

A report from Bloomberg Businessweek references research from the University of Illinois to gauge the volume of fake reviews on sites like Amazon. The researcher who led the study Professor Bing Liu told Businessweek that approximately 30 percent of reviews for certain products are fake.

The e-commerce company claims that soliciting paid reviews is in violation of several laws, including Lanham Act, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, Washington Consumer Protection Act and Washington Common Law.

Amazon sent a statement to TechCrunch regarding their legal battle and said they would continue to bring legal action against those who don’t respect the integrity and legitimacy behind the online review system.

“To help eliminate the incentives to engage in reviews abuse, we will continue to pursue legal action against the root cause of reviews abuse – the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fraudulent reviews – as well as the ecosystem of individuals and organizations who supply fraudulent reviews in exchange for compensation.”

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