Last updated on October 3rd, 2023 at 04:24 pm

A black market of fake reviews & paid review services could be a result of their own tenacity in pushing sellers to lower their prices.

Sale text against red color curved background. 3d illustration

Amazon has begun removing some of the largest Chinese sellers on the platform according to a new report by TechCrunch. The report suggests that sellers have been targeted because of their use of black-hat style marketing tactics which include paying for fake product reviews & driving interested sellers to other purchasing platforms outside of Amazon.

Five exporters contacted by TechCrunch pointed to a data breach uncovered by SafetyDetectives, a cybersecurity firm, which contained a trove of direct messages between Amazon sellers soliciting fake reviews from buyers. The data, which implicates more than 200,000 individuals, was hosted on a server that appears to be in China, according to SafetyDetectives.

TechCrunch: Prime today, gone tomorrow: Chinese products get pulled from Amazon

Amazon’s rules for reviews prohibit reviews provided “in exchange for monetary reward” though the details of what determines whether something is considered monetary appears to be completely missing.

As a typical American household full of Chinese-made electronics I purchased from Amazon, I can’t attest to some of the more egregious accusations of sellers paying for fake reviews. What I can attest to, is the number of times I’ve been offered a free or highly discounted product to post a review of something else I’ve purchased from the same seller.

These solicitations usually come either by email or, more commonly, small business cards packed in the boxes of products I’ve purchased which typically say something like, “Review this product on Amazon, send us a link to the review, and we’ll give you another one for free.”

It seems pretty cut and dry – violate the rules and you’re gone. But I can’t help but wonder what drives these rule violations in the first place?

The Amazon Ecosystem Could be it’s Own Worst Enemy

Is it possible that in the quest to be the one-stop-shop with the best prices, the competition driven by Amazon has forced some sellers to resort to unauthorized tactics in order to remain viable? It’s no secret that Amazon forces sellers to lower the prices sometimes beyond what’s reasonable, especially if those products are also sold outside of Amazon’s own platform.

Sellers on Amazon are pushed to be the cheapest and run with razor-thin margins for even the slightest chance of their products being shown to browsing shoppers. So while there will always be bad actors, this push for lowest prices may have spurred the creation of an entire industry selling fake reviews and skirting other platform regulations with each seller scrabbling to get the slightest edge.

Amazon may be a huge company making a ton of money, but that doesn’t mean all the rewards they reap are good. With their policies having created a monster that is probably impossible to control, Amazon’s recent round of seller removals is just an expensive game of whack-a-mole that they’ll be playing for a long time to come.

Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He’s also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover bands, Liquifaction and Minority Report.

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