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Amazon Sues Over Fake Reviews

Online product reviews can be extremely useful in helping customers make purchasing decisions. But when online reviews can’t be trusted, they go from helpful to pointless in seconds. It’s for this reason that Amazon.com has been cracking down on fake reviews. In fact, the mega online retailer is now suing over 1,000 people for posting fake product reviews on its site.

The lawsuit in question is specifically seeking damages from account holders of Fiverr.com, which is an online marketplace for random jobs where gigs are sold for $5 and up. Because Amazon has no way of knowing precisely who is behind the accounts—it only has access to the users’ online handles—the suit lists the fake reviewers as “John Doe.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t Amazon’s first battle against review fraud. The online retailer sued a number of websites for selling fake reviews back in April. According to Amazon, most of those sites have since been shut down, and the goal of the latest suit is to put an end to the practice of paying individuals to write and post fake reviews.

Amazon’s terms of use specifically ban fake reviews. The retailer is therefore suing those who posted them for breach of contract and for violating Washington’s consumer protection laws.

Of course, Amazon has several protections in place to prevent fake reviews, but apparently this latest batch of Fiverr users got pretty sneaky. According to Amazon, those being targeted by the suit not only used different accounts to post their reviews, but did so using different IP addresses.

Amazon’s policy is to terminate all accounts that abuse its terms of usage, but the lawsuit is seeking to take things one step further in an attempt to restore some integrity to the online product review process. Some have even suggesting doing away with the online product review system for fear that some unscrupulous vendors will try to take advantage and mislead consumers. But that’s not a route Amazon wants to take. For one thing, online reviews, when written honestly, can be extremely helpful to consumers. And while it’s true that positive reviews can help sell products, they can also contribute to better consumer education on a whole.

The product review system is actually an integral part of Amazon’s customer value proposition. In fact, the retailer has gone out of its way to create an online review community, where top reviewers are called out and highlighted on the site’s hall of fame.

Furthermore, reviews give consumers peace of mind in the absence of having a physical product in front of them to evaluate. According to Forrester Research, a good 45% of consumers use customer reviews when deciding whether to purchase something online, and Nielsen research has found that 66% of consumers find online reviews to be trustworthy. It’s for this reason that Amazon is taking a stand against fake reviews rather than sitting back and doing nothing. The retailer’s suit calls for unspecified damages and, more importantly, an order forcing the users to immediately cease the practice of writing and posting fake reviews. Whether this suit will deter future users from posting fake reviews is yet to be determined, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

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