Amazon is taking legal action against more than 1,100 people for allegedly posting fake reviews on its website in return for $5 payment.
The online retailer’s lawsuit, filed in a state court in Seattle, cites 1,114 defendants for “tarnishing Amazon’s brand for their own profit and the profit of a handful of dishonest sellers and manufacturers”.
They all offered their services through website Fiverr.com, with most promising positive or five-star reviews for a seller’s products.
The defendants – named as “John Does” in the lawsuit and referred to only by their usernames – offer to write “fraudulent” reviews for as little as $5 (£3.25), it is claimed.
Amazon said it takes the “credibility of its customer reviews very seriously” and said “an unhealthy ecosystem has developed outside of Amazon to supply reviews in exchange for payment”.
The US firm said it carried out an “extensive investigation” of the defendants’ action on Fiverr, and purchased reviews from them.
Many encourage the Amazon seller to write the text for their own review, it said, and take steps to avoid detection by using multiple accounts and unique IP addresses.
“While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon’s brand,” the technology giant said in its complaint, which was filed on Friday.
Amazon said it had conducted an investigation, which included purchasing fake customer reviews on Fiverr from people who promised five-star ratings and offered to allow purchasers to write reviews.
It said it had observed fake review sellers attempting to avoid detection by using multiple accounts from unique IP addresses.
Amazon said the lawsuit was not targeting Fiverr, which is not a defendant in the complaint. Fiverr said it was working with Amazon to resolve the issue.
“Amazon is bringing this action to protect its customers from this misconduct, by stopping defendants and uprooting the ecosystem in which they participate,” the lawsuit says.
Anyone, whether they are a customer or not, has the ability to review products sold on Amazon’s online store, but the rules of the site forbid paid-for or fictional reviews.