In the first case of its kind, Amazon has filed a suit in King County Superior Court against Jay Gentile, of California. He is accused of operating sites including buyazonreviews.com, buyamazonreviews.com, bayreviews.net and buyreviewsnow.com. The suit also targets other anonymous individuals thought to be involved in the sites, writes Todd Bishop for Geekwire.
Attempt to save reputation of online reviews
“While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand,” says the suit. “Amazon strictly prohibits any attempt to manipulate customer reviews and actively polices its website to remove false, misleading, and inauthentic reviews.
The company is attempting a wider crackdown on the practice of leaving fake reviews. “Despite substantial efforts to stamp out the practice, an unhealthy ecosystem is developing outside of Amazon to supply inauthentic reviews,” the suit adds. “Defendants’ businesses consist entirely of selling such reviews.”
Sophisticated plan to fool Amazon
The suit alleges that sites operated by Gentile sell fake “verified reviews” for a premium, and sellers are able to ship empty boxes to reviewers in order to fool Amazon into believing that a product had genuinely been purchased.
“Indeed, one of the review sites – buyazonreviews.com – even chastised a reviewer for complaining about not receiving the product, admitting, “All our reviewers know of the process and I am not sure as to why she sent this to you but I will ensure it does not happen in the future,’ ” the suit continues.
Reviewers working for buyazonreviews.com wrote 5-star reviews for products that they never bought, as well as one 4-star review requested by a customer.
Amazon is seeking damages including restitution, which could lead to an investigation into profits allegedly made by Gentile and his colleagues from the sale of fake reviews. Allegations include trademark violations, unfair competition and deceptive acts.
The suit reveals the ongoing struggle to preserve the reputation of online reviews, which struggle for credibility for a variety of reasons, allegedly up to and including the sale of fake reviews on dedicated websites.