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There is a growing epidemic of fake Amazon reviews that are making it harder and harder to get good-quality products. Even if you try to really do your research, Amazon reviews are becoming extremely unreliable. And what makes it even harder is the large number of duplicate and counterfeit items with slight variations. These straight-outta-the-sweat-shop specials are crushing brand variety on Amazon and are huge proliferators of fake reviews. With their integrity and quality waning, how much longer can Amazon maintain?

Facebook Groups Selling Amazon Reviews

Here’s how it works, you join a Facebook group to get free samples of products. You do have to purchase the product on Amazon. However, you are promised a refund if you provide a glowing review on Amazon. Incentivizing reviews is prohibited by Amazon, but monitoring fraud is challenging.

Last year, [Amazon] removed 200 million suspected fake reviews before they could be posted to pages for products listed by one of 1.9 million third-party sellers on the platform.

-from “How fake reviews flood Amazon, fueled by Facebook groups like this one

Facebook also prohibits incentivized review groups. They are also working to shut down review trading groups, but this practice can even move offline. Some vendors will include cards with your product that have instructions for getting gift cards in exchange for good reviews as well. Not to mention that the refunds fake review groups are getting are going through PayPal, not Amazon, so they are harder to track.

Why Companies Post Fake Amazon Reviews

Selling on Amazon is highly competitive. Having a large number of positive reviews is essential to your success as a seller. If a product can get enough good reviews, it will be featured more prominently as a best seller or “Amazon pick.” Amazon has a program called Vine that allows companies the opportunity to legitimately get more product reviews for trial products. However, the Vine program and routine review removals do not seem to be doing enough to solve the problem. Fake Amazon reviews (and fake reviews in general) are regarded as false advertising. This is something regulators could potentially take action against to protect consumers.

Should You Be Concerned?

Fake Amazon reviews should genuinely concern you! Many of Amazon’s top-rated and most prominently featured products have gotten that visibility through incentivizing positive reviews. Some of these products might actually be good products. However, it is hard to tell and you cannot trust Amazon’s ratings and reviews. A good practice is to expand the reviews on a product. Read some reviews from all of the various star ratings. Try to get a full picture of what people have experienced. However, you need to bear in mind that you can’t be certain all of those five-star reviews weren’t bought.

What is Amazon Doing to Stop Fake Reviews?

In their statement, “Creating a trustworthy reviews experience” Amazon explains how they are addressing the explosion of fake reviews. They say:

We are relentless in protecting our store and will take action to stop fake reviews regardless of the size or location of those who attempt this abuse. At the same time, we do not take any enforcement decision lightly and maintain a very high bar for our accuracy in identifying fake reviews.

While their sentiment seems sincere, they proceed to pass the buck to social media companies:

In the first three months of 2020, we reported more than 300 groups to social media companies, who then took a median time of 45 days to shut down those groups from using their service to perpetrate abuse. In the first three months of 2021, we reported more than 1,000 such groups, with social media services taking a median time of five days to take them down. While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster at responding, to address this problem at scale, 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. 

Counterfeit Amazon Products are Dominating the Marketplace

Another issue that has gone unaddressed is the duplicate product listings. If you notice, many duplicate items with slightly different brand names or slight variations top your Amazon searches. These mass-manufactured items out of China are listed to flood out competing brands that actually have different features and value to offer. You’ll also notice that all of these duplicate products have large numbers of glowing reviews. When you click to view the lower ratings, you see that actual user experiences were much different and have much better information to offer you.

How Counterfeit Goods Flooded Amazon

So where are all of these products coming from? Forbes explains:

When Amazon began pushing for more Chinese merchants to start selling on their U.S. and European marketplaces in 2015 they greased the pathways for manufactures in the “world’s factory” to sell directly to end consumers in the West, but they also cleared the way for the counterfeiters and scammers that have long plagued Chinese e-commerce sites to not only rip off the intellectual property of Western brands but to compete directly against them in the same marketplace, often on the same pages.

-from “How Amazon’s Wooing Of Chinese Sellers Is Killing Small American Businesses”

Likewise, Amazon sellers have reported this experience first hand. Forbes goes on to note that a seller they interviewed found “1,500 of his products had been counterfeited by 15 to 20 different sellers — all of whom were based in China or Hong Kong.”

chinese scammers on Amazon report from seller

The counterfeit products from Chinese sellers often target hot selling items that are sold by mom-and-pop style sellers. So this problem of duplicate listings is hurting competition on Amazon, and hurting small businesses and entrepreneurs. In 2015, Amazon streamlined its shipping practices which resulted in an even bigger boost to foreign sellers. They made it cheaper for counterfeit Chinese goods to be shipped. As a result, counterfeit Chinese products have begun to dominate Amazon. What’s worse is that sellers have very little recourse to take if they discover their goods have been counterfeit.

Final Thoughts on Fake Amazon Reviews

Between the fake Amazon reviews and counterfeit products, it is becoming harder and harder to get good products when shopping on Amazon. Additionally, there is the high cost of Prime membership that reduces benefits to rural participants. These factors, the known lack of federal tax contribution, and owner Jeff Bezos’ preoccupation with space travel are leading many consumers to choose alternatives to Amazon. Indeed, it does seem that the retail giant is faltering and quickly losing its appeal to consumers.

Sabine Downer

Sabine Downer

Sabine Downer is the Webformix Marketing Specialist that is responsible for our online content such as blogs, ads, internet promotions, and social media engagement.