In another effort to crack down on fake reviews for products on its digital store, Amazon has sued a Massachusetts company that it says sells fake five-star "verified feedback" and creates accounts for sellers who have been suspended.
The lawsuit comes weeks after Amazon sued the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups for allegedly coordinating fake product reviews in exchange for money or free products. Amazon is ramping up ongoing legal activity against fake review brokers, the company said. The most recent lawsuit is the first aimed at stopping fraudsters who are posting fake seller feedback, which is separate from product reviews.
"Every day, millions of consumers who shop in Amazon's stores use customer product reviews or seller feedback to assist with purchasing decisions," reads the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court and first reported by Axios. "The bad actors who pay for product reviews and seller feedback erode that customer trust, compete unfairly with the millions of honest entrepreneurs who sell in Amazon's stores and tarnish Amazon's brand."
In this case, Amazon sued Trey King, a Rhode Island resident, and his company, Auction Sentinel, as well as Sentinel Solutions, a corporation organised in Massachusetts.
Auction Sentinel bills itself as the "#1 marketplace for third party sellers" and offers services for people selling their goods on Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Walmart. "If you want to sell and profit in E-com (ecommerce), you need a coach who has been in the game for a while and not just a glorified Instagram or YouTube personality who flashes luxury cars," King wrote in a pitch for Auction Sentinel's services on its website.
Amazon claims Auction Sentinel creates fake five-star "verified feedback" for sellers on its platform in order to "artificially inflate" a seller's ratings. One package offers 10 feedbacks for US$200 (RM888) and another promotes up to 100 for US$700 (RM3,108).
The seller marketplace also offers to create "stealth" selling accounts for sellers who have been suspended, blocked or shut down, or who wish to open multiple accounts in violation of Amazon's policies. Auction Sentinel says on its website it offers the service because "Amazon has always had an unfair practice of suspending sellers for what seem like frivolous reasons."
Amazon has previously sued people it said were offering fake testimonials, though lawmakers and regulators have questioned whether the company was doing enough to combat the issue. Last year, UK competition regulators launched a probe into whether the online retailer and Google were taking adequate steps to protect shoppers.
In July, following its lawsuit against the Facebook group administrators, Amazon said Facebook groups had been set up to recruit people "willing to post incentivised and misleading reviews" across its stores. One of the groups, called "Amazon Product Review," had more than 43,000 members.
Since 2020, Amazon said it has reported more than 10,000 fake review groups to Meta, Facebook's parent company. Meta has removed half of these groups and is investigating the others, Amazon said.
"Every day, millions of Amazon selling partners around the world work hard to provide a great customer experience in our store. Attempting to manipulate seller feedback is unfair to customers and to honest Amazon selling partners," Kebharu Smith, director of Amazon's Counterfeit Crimes Unit, said in a statement. "We are committed to protecting our store from all forms of fraud and abuse and to holding bad actors accountable, so that Amazon remains the most trustworthy place to shop and sell." – The Seattle Times/Tribune News Service