In its ongoing fight to stamp out fake product reviews and earn customers’ trust, Amazon is calling upon social media companies and consumer protection regulators to do more to protect unwitting buyers and well-intentioned sellers from a growing spate of fraudulent activity.
The call for external help was made in an unsigned Wednesday (June 16) company blog post, in which Amazon addressed the many problems surrounding its popular and highly impactful product review system, which allows users to leave comments and rate their experiences by leaving one to five stars.
In acknowledging the importance of product reviews and the role they play in influencing the decisions of its 300 million active customers — and in turn the fortunes of its 1.9 million sellers — Amazon said it continues to invest and innovate to allow only genuine product reviews in its store.
While the online giant said it had stopped more than 200 million fake reviews before they were ever seen by customers, and that 99 percent of review enforcement was driven by its own proactive detection, it needs help from outside the company’s walls to finish the job.
“While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster at responding,” Amazon said, “to address this problem at scale, it is imperative for social media companies to invest adequately in proactive controls to detect and enforce fake reviews ahead of our reporting the issue to them.”
Better, But Not Perfect
Amazon did say the response time had markedly improved but stressed the need to still do more. For example, in the first quarter of 2020, Amazon said it reported more than 300 groups associated with fake reviews to unnamed social media companies that took an average of 45 days to shut them down. But in Q1 of 2021, Amazon said that lag time had shortened to just five days, noting that its collaborative approach was working.
“Protecting consumers will require all of us to work together to ensure we leverage our unique knowledge, partner with each other, and stop attempted fraud and fake reviews before it has a chance of impacting consumers,” Amazon said.
In stressing the need to hold bad actors accountable for their actions, Amazon dubbed the problem a “significant industry challenge” that it cannot address alone.
“We have filed lawsuits against those who have purchased reviews and the service providers who provided them, and we will continue to pursue these bad actors through the courts,” Amazon said. “But we need coordinated assistance from consumer protection regulators around the world.”
Amazon’s battle with fake reviews comes not only at a time of record online purchasing, but amid its push to attract more sellers — particularly small entrepreneurial businesses — to list their merchandise on its massive marketplace.
In fact, the focus on nurturing small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is a major theme of the company’s upcoming Prime Day sales event in which it has set up a curated storefront for small sellers and is also giving $10 credit coupons to customers who buy selected products from them.
Still, the company that now has a market value of $1.7 trillion and accounts for 50 percent of online retail activity is not without its critics. For example, a Wall Street Journal article published Wednesday focuses on how not being on Amazon has become a selling point for some startups looking to tap into consumer wariness over the marketplace’s growing dominance and ubiquity.
The pushback — or competition — is also coming from Amazon’s mega cap rivals, like Facebook and Google, which are also doing more to boost their own commerce offerings and make it easier for consumers to search and buy items they see in posts or videos.
No matter where the buying is being done, maintaining the basic tenets of trust and fairness will be critical for any company looking to acquire or retain increasingly savvy customers, because in much the same way that fake reviews have come under scrutiny, word will get out.