Amazon review system 'exploited' by UK sellers

Amazon sellers in the UK are fraudulently boosting their listings with reviews from unrelated items, according to an investigation by Which?.

The consumer organisation found that nine out of 10 of the top-rated headphones on the online marketplace had “glowing reviews” for completely different products – ranging from cuddly toys and jigsaw puzzles to umbrellas.

Which? said that these listings have been misleadingly boosted using a “black hat” marketing tactic whereby a seller exploits loopholes to get an unfair advantage – known as review merging abuse.

It says that this suggests Amazon is struggling to prevent third-party sellers from manipulating its review system to boost their products.

The Competition & Markets Authority says £23 billion of consumer spending is influenced by online reviews.

“Unscrupulous businesses are exploiting weaknesses with Amazon’s review system, leaving shoppers at risk of buying products boosted by thousands of bogus five-star reviews,” said Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy. “Once again, this reinforces the importance of the CMA’s ongoing fake reviews investigation getting to the bottom of the issue and ensuring that major shopping sites are protecting people from these unfair practices.

“The government also announced its intention to tackle fake reviews as part of its consumer and competition reforms and should bring forward new laws, in the upcoming Queen’s Speech, to banish these exploitative practices as soon as possible.”

Which? looked at the popular category of bluetooth headphones and arranged the results by ‘average customer reviews’, to mimic how a consumer might shop if they are looking for the best-rated headphones on the site.

There was just one established brand across the top 10 headphones – Bose, which came eighth and did not show any signs of review abuse.

The other nine were unknown or little-known brands, which did not appear to be sold on any other sites apart from Amazon.

Which? says they had been artificially boosted by thousands of irrelevant reviews for entirely different products – including umbrellas, personalised jigsaw puzzles, bowls, glass jars, extension leads, cuddly toys, and a keyboard desk tidy.

In some cases, the listings had no reviews for bluetooth headphones at all.

The most highly rated headphones, which had five stars out of five, were ‘Amazon’s Choice’ and had received 40 reviews – but none of the reviews were about headphones.

    Share Story:

Recent Stories

Find out how HULFT can help you manage data, integration, supply chain automation and digital transformation across your retail enterprise.
Talking shop: retail technology solutions from Brother
Retail Systems editor Peter Walker sits down with Brother’s senior commercial client manager Jessica Stansfield to talk through the company’s solutions for retailers and hospitality businesses, what’s new in labelling technology, and the benefits of outsourcing printing.