Why are there so many five-star reviews for an iPhone charger on Amazon with a voltage irregularity that can cause permanent damage? “It’s sad to imagine how many shoppers spotted this $13.99 charger pack on Amazon’s first-page results and fell for the thousands of positive reviews and the algorithmically-generated endorsement from a platform that people trust more than religion,” reports The Hustle.
A spot-check confirmed that “10 of the 22 first-page results on Amazon for ‘iPhone charger’ were products with thousands of 5-star reviews, all unverified and posted within a few days of each other,” and they’ve now investigated “the underbelly of Amazon’s fake-review economy” and “how such a product, peddled by a ragtag troupe of e-commerce scammers, managed to game one of the world’s premier technology companies.”
The fake Amazon review economy is a thriving market, ripe with underground forums, “How To Game The Rankings!” tutorials, and websites with names like (now-defunct) “amazonverifiedreviews.com.” But the favored hunting grounds for sellers on the prowl is Amazon’s fellow tech behemoth, Facebook. In a recent two-week period, I identified more than 150 private Facebook groups where sellers openly exchange free products (and, in many cases, commissions) for 5-star reviews, sans disclosures. A sampling of 20 groups I analyzed collectively have more than 200,000 members. These groups seem to be in the midst of an online Gold Rush: Most are less than a year old, and in the past 30 days have attracted more than 50,000 new users… One stay-at-home mom from Kentucky told me she makes $200-300 per month leaving positive reviews for things like sleep masks, light bulbs, and AV cables…
Fake reviews have been an issue for Amazon since its inception, but the problem appears to have intensified in 2015, when Amazon.com began to court Chinese sellers. The decision has led to a flood of new products — a 33% increase, by some accounts — sold by hundreds of thousands of new sellers. Rooted in manufacturing hubs like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, they use Amazon’s fulfillment program, FBA, to send large shipments of electronic goods directly to Amazon warehouses in the US. This rapid influx has spawned thousands of indistinguishable goods (chargers, cables, batteries, etc.). And it has prompted sellers to game the system. “It’s a lot harder to sell on Amazon than it was 2 or 3 years ago,” says Fahim Naim, an ex-Amazon manager who now runs an e-commerce consulting firm. “So a lot of sellers are trying to find shortcuts.” Steve Lee, a Los Angeles-based vendor, is among them: “You have to play the game to sell now,” he says. “And that game is cheating and breaking the law….”
The article points out that this is illegal. “Endorsements are required to be truthful,” Mary Engel, Associate Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Advertising Practices, tells the site. “If a reviewer has received something of value in exchange for their opinion, they need to clearly disclose that in the review.” But instead, the review-watching site “ReviewMeta” analyzed 203 …read more