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Amazon is the Biggest Product Review Manipulator of All

     
12:52 pm on Jul 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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It was big news when the FTC cracked down on an Amazon seller who paid for fake reviews for his products. The practice is quite common, particularly when Amazon allows unverified reviews. These small fish sellers pale in comparison to what Amazon is doing with product reviews. When a consumer purchases a product on Amazon, in their orders interface they are presented with options that include returning an item, leaving product reviews, etc. As you can see by the screenshot below, Amazon gives consumers the option to leave a product review when they buy a FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon/Prime) item and omits the product review option for FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant/Third Party Seller) items.

https://i.postimg.cc/W3cYYS27/amazon-product-review-steering.gif

As many sellers on Amazon already know, Amazon steers product reviews to FBA (Prime) offers and away from FBM offers. Why? FBA sellers are billed fulfillment fees on each shipment, which for a 10 ounce basic item is currently $2.41 on top of the 15% commission Amazon takes. Therefore, it is more profitable when Amazon sells a FBA item they ship from one of their warehouses -vs- a third party seller that packs/ships their own items.

The weight of product reviews in a consumer's purchasing decision has grown more important over the years. To a large degree, consumers trust Amazon which is largely due to their consumer friendly return/refund policies. However, Amazon has violated that trust in how they promote product reviews.

As a domestic manufacturer, I see the impact of Amazon's product review steering on a daily basis. Despite producing higher quality and safer products, we rarely get product reviews while our Chinese competitors just rake them in. Since so many sellers on Amazon are from China (estimated at 40%+ see [webmasterworld.com...] ), I see this as a domestic -vs- import problem as well.

As a consumer, a product with more product reviews looks more appealing on many fronts. Call it the bandwagon effect (everyone is on board so I should be too) or whatever, products with more reviews simply appear more sought out by consumers and appealing. However, as a consumer, I feel Amazon has duped me and millions of other customers by creating a product review system that elevates products based not on their merits but on what is more profitable to Amazon.

So let me ask this... Knowing that Amazon steers product reviews to more profitable FBA items and away from FBM items, do you think this violates any USA laws? If not, what makes deceiving consumers in this way acceptable to both the FTC and DOJ?
1:25 pm on July 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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On Amazon UK I see product review buttons for all purchases. I have a mixture of sold by Amazon, fulfilled by Amazon and sold and dispatched by a seller.
1:28 pm on July 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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May be the EU is more strict about this kind of things. I can't verify, so I am just guessing.
1:46 pm on July 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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do you think this violates any USA laws? If not, what makes deceiving consumers in this way acceptable to both the FTC and DOJ?
Not sure is steering people to make a review is technically illegal, but I suspect if they were fake reviews the FTC and DOJ might take action, but only after a lot of consumer complaints.
1:53 pm on July 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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May be the EU is more strict about this kind of things

The EU is definitely more proactive when it comes to policing the business practices of big tech/ecommerce companies. The huge fines levied against Google likely made other big multi-nationals take notice.

As it relates to the treatment of FBA -vs- FBM product reviews, Amazon may be less inclined to boost their profits in the EU using this type of product review manipulation when the EU already had an ongoing probe of Amazon that indirectly addresses the product review concerns I raised. The EU probe focused on the dual role Amazon has being a marketplace of sellers and as a direct competitor. See: [ft.com...]

Margrethe Vestager, EU competition commissioner, said that the preliminary probe focused on the online retailer’s dual role as a competitor, but also host, to third-party merchants, which sell goods on Amazon’s websites.

Politicians in the USA appear more susceptible to succumbing to the wishes of lobbyists while USA regulators appear more likely to go after the quick/easy cases while ignoring large scale violators that may involve a substantial amount of work.

@Marshall

I'm not sure it is illegal either, but definitely is unethical when Amazon controls about 50% of the ecommerce market in the USA. Chances are the FTC and DOJ won't field many consumer complaints as Amazon's review steering practice is unknown to most consumers.
6:37 pm on July 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I am a fake reviewer on Amazon and make thousands $$$ monthly. Who is going to stop me ? So funny !
7:13 pm on July 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Who is going to stop me?
Something tells me “the loathing and contempt of other human beings” is not the answer you’re looking for.
7:04 am on July 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Everyone loves a review! Else why do we read entertainment news?

Amazon is largely entertainment these days. :)

</satire>
4:13 pm on July 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I think faking FBM is too easy, so it forced A to steer towards FBA reviews.
 

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