Amazon has been accused of unwittingly sanctioning a flood of fake five-star reviews for virtually unknown brands in a move which threatens to undermine the integrity of its review system.
Consumer group Which? analysed the listings of hundreds of tech products in 14 online categories including headphones, dashcams, fitness trackers and smartwatches, checking for signs of suspicious reviews.
Which? also found that top-rated items were dominated by brands with names such as Itshiny, Vogek and Aitalk. Thousands of these were unverified, meaning there was no evidence the reviewer bought the product, it said.
When it searched for headphones, for instance, Which? found all the products on the first page of results were from unknown brands – which it defines as ones its experts have never heard of – rather than known brands, which it defines as household names.
Of 12,000 reviews for these, the majority (87%) were from unverified purchases. with many posted on the same day, suggesting they had been automated.
Which? found similar results when searching for smartwatches, with unverified reviews making up 99% of reviews for the top four products.
Which? head of home products Natalie Hitchins said: “Our research suggests that Amazon is losing the battle against fake reviews, with shoppers bombarded by comments aimed at artificially boosting products from unknown brands.
“Amazon must do more to purge its websites of unreliable and fake reviews if it is to maintain the trust of its millions of customers. To avoid being misled and possibly buying a dud product, customers should always take reviews with a pinch of salt and look to independent and trustworthy sources when researching a purchase.”
Amazon said in a statement: “[We] invest significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban and take legal action on those who violate our policies.”
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