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What just happened? Amazon has deleted some 20,000 reviews from its top 7 UK reviewers. It appears that the reviews had been posted as part of a profiteering plot, where individuals were sent free products in exchange for a guaranteed five-star review.
The move comes following an investigation from the Financial Times, which initially identified “suspicious activity” involving 9 out of Amazon’s top 10 UK accounts. Following this initial investigation, Amazon has now removed the review history of its top 7 UK accounts, including its number one-ranked reviewer, Justin Fryer.
Fryer’s contributions to Amazon’s UK site ranged from reviews of electric scooters to gym equipment, with most of the items coming from little-known Chinese companies. He posted a five-star review approximately every four hours, and in August alone he reviewed £15,000 worth of products.
It’s thought that the reviewed products sent to Fryer, and others, were given free of charge in exchange for a positive review. In the case of Justin Fryer, these products then appear to have been sold on eBay; as the Financial Times notes, Fryer has made almost £20,000 on the eBay platform since June.
Adding further evidence to the claim that Fryer’s reviews are fake, many of his eBay listings described his reviewed products as “unused” and “unopened.”
This older survey data from 2016 shows how Amazon's user reviews are lopsided towards 5-star ratings compared to other consumer sites. This UK incident shows not much has changed.
While Amazon has struggled with the problem of fake reviews for some time, the issue seems to have worsened in recent months due to the impact of Covid-19, which has driven users away from physical shops and towards online stores. In a comment, an Amazon spokesperson said that it takes fraud very seriously, adding: “We want Amazon customers to shop with confidence knowing that the reviews they read are authentic and relevant.”
However, with the Financial Times finding evidence of suspicious activity on 90 percent of the platform’s top UK reviewers, it looks like Amazon has a lot of work ahead before users can truly trust the legitimacy of its customer reviews.