The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) announced a settlement with Cure Encapulations, an Amazon seller, that bought fake reviews of its product, a weight-loss supplement. The company reportedly purchased the fraudulent reviews from AmazonVerifiedReviews.com.
AmazonVerifiedReviews.com had been sued by Amazon itself in 2016, along with a number of other fake review vendors. According to the suit by Amazon, “[AmazonVerifiedReviews.com’s] website claims that he offers ‘only a platform that links reviewers to business owners.’ In reality, however, for a fee, [it] guarantees a certain review length will be posted along with a 4 or 5 star rating.”
According to the FTC, its complaint against Cure Encapsulations is that the company
paid AmazonVerifiedReviews.com to generate 5-star ratings in an effort to deceive the consumer public.
The FTC’s proposed court order provides:
- That Cure Encapsulations no longer misrepresent the benefits of the product
- That it notify consumers who bought the product of the FTC’s allegations
- That it notify Amazon that it had bought the fake reviews and identify the fake reviews themselves to Amazon
- A judgment of $12.8 million, “suspended upon payment of $50,000 to the Commission and the payment of certain unpaid income tax obligations.”
Other third-party analysis of fake reviews on Amazon found them to be pervasive. According to Fakespot, a tool that grades Amazon reviews for authenticity, fraudulent reviews dominate certain product categories. As an example, Fakespot found that 61 percent of review content in the the electronics category is fake. In the beauty category it was 63 percent, and supplements was 64 percent.
Amazon isn’t the only one with the problems either. There’s also a fake review problem on Google.
This is a real problem since many consumers rely on reviews to make purchase decisions. Reviews have even become a ranking factor as well. Malicious sellers and business owners will continue trying to game the system by purchasing positive reviews. According to a 2017 BrightLocal survey, it was found that nearly 80 percent of people thought they had encountered fake reviews online.