Online eCommerce site Amazon.com Inc. is suing more than 1,000 people for writing fake product reviews on its website in exchange for $5 payments.
In a lawsuit filed on Friday, Amazon asked a Washington state court to grant damages against a group of people who it says posted phony 5-star reviews in exchange for $5. In some cases, the company used undercover agents to conduct transactions with the fake reviewers.
“Defendants are misleading Amazon’s customers and tarnishing Amazon’s brand for their own profit and the profit of a handful of dishonest sellers and manufacturers,” — according to a complaint filed Friday in a Seattle court.
The fake reviewers found the jobs on Fiverr.com, a website through which people can opt to perform tasks and services like writing, editing or programming for $5 apiece. They allegedly used hundreds of fake Amazon account names and IP addresses in order to pepper the site with fake reviews. The text of the reviews are typically supplied by the people who hired them. Amazon is suing the writers, not the website itself.
“Suing the reviewers is a way to discourage them from doing it again,” — said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter. “They’re trying to make a statement that you can rely on the integrity of the reviews on the site.”
Fake reviews are nothing new to online retailing, and Amazon is far from the only big company affected. Yelp’s restaurant reviews and TripAdvisor’s hotel ratings have long been a target of critics who claim that merchants can easily post positive reviews of their own businesses. About 45 percent of consumers consider product reviews when weighing an online purchase, according to Forrester Research. Two-thirds of shoppers trust consumer opinions online, according to research by Nielsen.
Amazon also sued several websites and their domain owners in April for promising to write unlimited four- and five-star reviews on Amazon, according to court documents.The defendants in the lawsuit are identified only by their online handles. Amazon is still working to determine their real names.Amazon is suing for unspecified damages and an order forcing the users to stop writing fake reviews. The Seattle company said the offenders are liable for breach of contract for violating Amazon’s terms of service.