After being pressed by the media and government organizations about paid reviews on its site, Amazon is taking its fight against compensated reviews to the courts. On Tuesday, the company filed lawsuits against AppSally and Rebatest, firms that Amazon claims sell “fake” positive Amazon reviews.
The claims: 5-star reviews for sale
Amazon’s two lawsuits in the King County Superior Court in Seattle against AppSally (PDF) and Rebatest (PDF) provide in-depth details of fake review packages purportedly offered by the companies, which have both been operating since at least 2018. Amazon believes AppSally and Rebatest are hurting customer trust by selling packages that let sellers pay for positive reviews of their products.
Amazon’s Community Guidelines say that “creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind, (including free or discounted products, refunds, or reimbursements)” and “offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content” is not allowed.
But according to one of Amazon’s lawsuits, AppSally sells at least 16 different packages offering Amazon reviews.
Amazon also claims that AppSally tells sellers to send it review drafts they’d like to see on their products.
AppSally describes itself as “a curated marketplace for growth” that “handpick[s] marketers to give you convenient access to best in class marketers used by the hyper growth companies” and offers “reputation management, influencers marketing, and more.”
AppSally didn’t return a request for comment in time for publication.
Rebatest allegedly sells reviews as well. The company reportedly requires Amazon sellers to “refund purchases made by reviewers,” Amazon’s filing says. The complaint says that Rebatest lets Amazon sellers “evaluate” users who may review their products “to determine the reviewer’s willingness to provide positive reviews and to preview and approve reviews before they are posted.”
The filing also says reviewers may no longer be eligible for purchase refunds if they don’t provide enough positive reviews.
When asked for comment, a Rebatest spokesperson told Ars Technica the company is “very shocked” about the complaint. “We didn’t encourage our users to do fake reviews,” the rep said. “What we do is help the sellers collect some useful opinions from our users after they use the products before the products are put into the market. … Users themselves [decide] to do the review on Amazon or not, as long as they complete the trial reports on Rebatest, they will get the rebate back. We don’t force or incentivize our users to do 5-star reviews.”
According to Amazon’s Seller Central website, “If you decide to ask a buyer to leave a review, you may not ask for a positive review or ask for reviews only from buyers who had a positive experience, nor may you ask customers to change or remove their review, or attempt to influence the review.”
Amazon is looking to shutter AppSally and Rebatest and acquire information from the companies so it can identify associated reviews and participating parties. It also wants the companies to “disgorge their profits” and pay treble damages and attorney fees.
Amazon says fake reviews are tarnishing its brand
Amazon is concerned about fake reviews deterring people from buying and selling on Amazon. In addition to pointing to fake reviews’ ability to “tarnish Amazon’s brand,” the company’s complaints cite bad publicity that it has received from media coverage of the proliferation of fake reviews.
The complaints reference a Wall Street Journal article titled “Fake Reviews and Inflated Ratings Are Still a Problem for Amazon.” Congress followed up on the report two days later with an inquiry “regarding the work Amazon does to ensure reviews are authentic.”
Amazon says that it uses teams of workers and machine learning to fight fake reviews, with over 200 million suspected instances prevented in 2020.
Update 2/24/2022, 10:58 a.m. ET: Added comment from Rebatest.