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Amazon 'flooded by fake five-star reviews'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter

Amazon (AMZN) is flooded with ‘fake’ five-star reviews of popular products, a leading UK consumer group has claimed.

An investigation by the consumer group Which? found hundreds of unverified accounts left top reviews on tech products in a single day.

Which? says glowing reviews from unverified buyers are a “telltale sign of ‘fake’ reviews,” and said its findings showed they had become a “serious problem” in online shopping.

The research found little-known brands dominated search results for several popular tech products including cameras, headphones and smart watches, often thanks to reviews regarded as suspicious by Which?.

But Amazon has said it invests “significant” resources in weeding out fake reviews, and took action against firms and individuals suspected of using them.

Amazon has reportedly been ‘flooded with fake reviews.’ Photo: Tim Goode/PA Archive/PA Images
Amazon has reportedly been ‘flooded with fake reviews.’ Photo: Tim Goode/PA Archive/PA Images

The first page of headphones on Amazon’s site was “by far the worst offender,” with every single product from a brand not recognised by the organisation.

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Which? found more than 10,000 reviews from unverified users on just 24 pairs of headphones in a couple of hours.

It said 71% of products on the first headphones page had perfect five-star reviews, and 87% of products were not confirmed as Amazon purchases.

In some cases, it found positive reviews for the wrong products on listings.

Hannah Walsh of Which? said: “97% of shoppers rely on online customer reviews to help make a purchase, according to a survey we conducted in September 2018 of more than 2,000 adults. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimates that £23bn a year of UK consumer spending is potentially influenced by online reviews.

“This makes fake reviews a serious problem – at best they could mislead you into buying a product that’s not as good as it appeared, at worse you could end up with something that’s not even fit for purpose.”

A study by the consumer group Which? found Amazon was ‘flooded’ by fake reviews. Photo: Which?
A study by the consumer group Which? found Amazon was ‘flooded’ by fake reviews. Photo: Which?

An Amazon spokesperson told the Guardian in a statement: “[We] invest significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers.

“We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban and take legal action on those who violate our policies.”

Four ways to spot a fake review

  • Check the reviewer’s profile. Have a look at all of their reviews. If they are all on the same day, or show very similar comments on different products, you should smell a rat.

  • Look for reviews below five stars. Fake reviewers might leave one-star reviews on competitor’s pages, but they certainly don’t leave three- and four-star reviews.

  • Look for one-word reviews. Star ratings matter more than comments left in Amazon’s algorithms, so a fake reviewer is not likely to waste time with a detailed post. One-word, non-specific reviews they can leave across multiple products are a giveaway.

  • Check the wishlist on a seller’s profile page. If you see the same items repeatedly, even though you’re looking at different reviewers’ profiles, it’s a sure-fire sign of something suspicious.

READ MORE: The rise of fake reviews, and more tips for spotting them