Amazon is seeking to shut down two sites that it alleges brokered large numbers of fraudulent and misleading product reviews by offering money and other incentives, such as free products, to people who wrote them.
The company filed suit Tuesday morning against Rebatest Inc. and AppSally in separate complaints in King County Superior Court in Seattle. Combined, the two sites claimed to have more than 900,000 members willing to write fake reviews, in violation of Amazon’s policies, according to the company.
“Fake review brokers attempt to profit by deceiving unknowing consumers and creating an unfair competitive advantage that harms our selling partners,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon vice president of Worldwide Customer Trust & Partner Support, in a news release. “We know how valuable trustworthy reviews are to our customers. That is why we are holding these review fraudsters accountable.”
The lawsuits continue a legal campaign that dates back nearly seven years. Amazon filed its first-ever lawsuit over fake reviews in April 2015.
In the years since, Amazon says it has won dozens of injunctions against fake review brokers. For example, the company cited a recent legal action against sites in Germany and the UK that were closed down in late 2021.
Amazon says it has more than 10,000 employees working on issues of fraud and abuse, including fake reviews. It also uses machine learning to help detect, prevent and remove fake reviews. The company says it blocked more than 200 million suspected fake reviews in 2020 before they were seen by customers.
Amazon is also engaging in a public relations campaign by filing and publicizing the lawsuits. The suits assert that fake reviews “threaten Amazon’s reputation and erode trust with consumers.”
Both suits cite, as an example, a June 2021 Wall Street Journal article, “Fake Reviews and Inflated Ratings Are Still a Problem for Amazon.”
Two days after publication of the article, the suits say, “Amazon received its first inquiry from Congress, by Senator Roger Wicker, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, regarding the work Amazon does to ensure reviews are authentic and inquiring whether reviews abuse in Amazon’s stores detailed in the Wall Street Journal article is widespread.”