Bogus reviews on the Internet erodes consumer protections, giving buyers a false sense of a product’s true worth.
Now Amazon.com, the Web’s dominant seller of products of all types, has sued three websites alleging that they are peddling fake reviews to sellers, which ends up deceiving consumers with glowing, paid-for evaluations.
This marks the first time Amazon has take such a legal action.
The suit alleges that these positive product assessments deceive consumers and harm the sellers on Amazon’s site who don’t cheat by buying fake reviews. Real customer reviews are a critical part of Amazon. The assessments, supposedly by consumers who have truly purchased and tried products, along with a 5-star rating system, provide buyers and sellers with some accountability.
Positive reviews of a product can boost sales significantly. However, bogus evaluations have undermined consumers and legitimate sellers on Amazon by making it harder for the public to distinguish between real reviews and fake ones.
The suit, filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, accuses Jay Gentile of California and websites that operate as buyamazonreviews.com and buyazonreviews.com, and others, of trademark infringement, false advertising and violations of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act, the Seattle Times first reported.
Amazon is demanding that the sites cease and desist its activities related to Amazon, provide information on each fake review created and the accounts of the people who paid for them, as well as financial damages.
“While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand,” according to the suit.
The site buyazonreviews.com, which the suit claims is run by Gentile, didn’t respond to a request for comment by the Seattle Times. But Mark Collins, the owner of buyamazonreviews.com, denied Amazon’s claims in an email to the Times.
“We are not selling fake reviews. however we do provide Unbiased and Honest reviews on all the products,” Collins wrote. “And this is not illegal at all.”
Yelp, the website that allows consumers to post reviews, sued yelpdirector.com’s alleged operators in February, accusing them of trying to help businesses through posting positive reviews and suppressing bad reviews. The defendants have yet to respond that complaint.