Leading consumer magazine Which? has found a worrying number of Amazon sellers taking part in something they are calling ‘Review Merging’ in order to boost sales of products whilst misleading potential buyers. Which? specifically pointed out the practice was rife in the headphones category on Amazon.
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Which? has found that 9 of the 10 highest-rated headphones on the Amazon site were carrying glowing reviews that were actually for products such as cuddly toys, jigsaw puzzles, and umbrellas. These products also included two that carried the “Amazon’s choice” mark of approval. They clarified that the nine were little-known brands, while just one established brand, Bose, which was rated eighth, did not show any signs of review abuse.
Speaking from personal experience I also witnessed this firsthand a few months ago when looking for a replacement pair of headphones. I recall seeing a review that caught my attention which was along the lines of someone’s daughter loved cuddling it at bedtime and it helped her sleep. I did think this was weird for a pair of Bluetooth headphones but thought it must have been a review left in error for the wrong product. I have since been back to try and find this review, but have been unable to do so.
Whilst merging reviews is allowed for products that share variations, usually such as colors and size options in the fashion categories. Merging reviews for totally unrelated products is against Amazon’s terms and conditions.
“Unscrupulous businesses are exploiting weaknesses with Amazon’s review system, leaving shoppers at risk of buying products boosted by thousands of bogus five-star reviews,”Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Which?.
Further Calls For Regulation Intervention on Amazon
This is not the first time that Amazon has come under fire for questionable reviews on their platform, and whilst they famously took action last year by suspending a huge number of accounts for fake reviews, this problem still persists.
Which? stated that whilst it focused its investigation on just one popular product category, they have also seen the issue across other categories, including smartphone chargers with reviews for surge protectors, tweezers boosted by reviews for non-stick kitchen foil, and blackhead removing nose strips boosted by reviews for wigs.
“Once again, this reinforces the importance of the CMA’s ongoing fake reviews investigation getting to the bottom of the issue and ensuring that major shopping sites are protecting people from these unfair practices.”Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Which?.
An Amazon spokesperson did release comment to the BBC regarding this Which? investigation which was as follows.
“We have now taken appropriate enforcement action against the product listings and sellers in question.
“We have clear guardrails in place to prevent products from being incorrectly grouped, either due to human error or abuse.
“Our proactive measures detect and block the vast majority of abuse in our store automatically: however, we are disappointed when bad actors evade our system and we will continue to innovate and invest in our tools and processes.”Amazon Spokesperson
Whilst the game of cat and mouse continues between unscrupulous sellers and the eCommerce giant, it seems like as governments are taking a keener interest in these events it won’t be much longer before some external factors are brought into play to help rid the bad actors on the eCommerce marketplaces.
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