In a new lawsuit, Amazon targeted one individual and four companies that allegedly wrote and posted fake reviews on the e-commerce giant’s site. Amazon’s Conditions of Use expressly prohibit paid reviews, as the site’s 250 million active customers often rely upon customer feedback.
In its complaint, Amazon contended that “buyamazonreviews.com,” “buyazonreviews.com,” “bayreviews.net,” and “buyreviewsnow.com” offered to write five-star reviews for between $19 and $22 and “slow drip” them onto Amazon.com so as not to arouse suspicion.
In one example, Amazon quoted a fake review for a USB cable titled “This has lit up my life.” Calling the product “rad,” the reviewer wrote, “Let’s just say we’re really impressed and are going to order a few more….”
For a premium charge, the defendants also offer fake “verified purchase reviews” where purchasers of the reviews send an empty box to the reviewer in an effort to fool Amazon into believing that the reviewer actually purchased the item.
According to Amazon, the defendants attempt to gain an unfair competitive advantage violated the Lanham Act, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, the Washington Consumer Protection Act, and Washington state law.
The complaint demanded that the defendants cease and desist using Amazon’s trademarks, that they cease accessing the site’s services, and that they refrain from offering the sale of fake reviews. It also demands that the defendants provide sufficient information to identify each fake review sold, along with the account information about the Amazon “reviewer” and the persons who paid for it.
Additionally, Amazon seeks restitution for the amount defendants have been unjustly enriched and actual and statutory damages, trebled where appropriate, and an order transferring the infringing domain names to Amazon.
To read the complaint in Amazon.com v. Gentile, click here.
Why it matters: As more consumers turn to online reviews before making a purchase decision, there is a great interest in ensuring their authenticity. In 2013 the New York Attorney General announced a settlement with 19 companies, which were ordered to stop writing fake reviews and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Now Amazon joins the ranks of other Web sites that rely on customer reviews, such as Yelp, and have resorted to litigation over fake reviews.