Amazon banned sellers of Chinese electronics brands earlier this month following a database leak that apparently connected some of these companies to fake reviews, which the world’s largest retailer says it forbids.
But a report from Recode on Thursday (May 20) says internal communications obtained by the news service show at least one of these bans was triggered not by Amazon alone, but also by pressure from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Recode also notes that the communications “appear to expose an inconsistent punishment system in which employees need special approval for suspending certain sellers because of their sales numbers, while some merchants are able to keep selling products to Amazon customers despite multiple policy violations and warnings.”
The internal messages also show several other recent examples of the FTC putting pressure on Amazon to crack down on fake reviews.
Recode said the FTC declined to comment on the report. Amazon spokesperson Mary Kate McCarthy said the companies policies “are the same for every seller, regardless of their size or location,” but did not respond to multiple questions about whether every seller faces the same level of enforcement.
The story notes that schemes involving Amazon merchants rewarding shoppers with refunds, money or gift cards in exchange for positive reviews have risen along with the company’s product selection.
The company has filed multiple lawsuits related to these schemes in the last six years, while the FTC has taken its own action against fake reviewers.
Amazon said earlier this month that a $700 million investment and the efforts of 10,000 employees had struck a major blow against the sale of counterfeit products on its site, part of the company’s 2020 Brand Protection Report.
The report said this work stopped 6 million attempts to stop selling accounts and more than 10 billion suspect listings, and halted the sale of more than 2 million counterfeit products.