Amazon is suing more than 1,000 people it says are writing fake reviews for its products on the US version of its website.
The legal action comes after The Sunday Times revealed how reviewers are selling five-star reviewers for $5 (£3.26) a time via the website Fiverr. To uncover the scam, the newspaper wrote a fake e-book called Everything Bonsai!, then paid reviewers to push it to the top of the gardening category of Amazon UK’s Kindle chart.
The online retail giant has now filed a lawsuit in Seattle, Washington, saying its brand reputation is being damaged by "false, misleading and inauthentic" reviews.
The lawsuit, published online by Publishers Marketplace, says: “A very small minority of sellers and manufacturers attempts to gain unfair competitive advantages by creating false, misleading, and inauthentic customer reviews for their products on Amazon.com. While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand… Despite substantial efforts to stamp out the practice, an unhealthy ecosystem is developing outside of Amazon to supply inauthentic reviews.”
Amazon is not suing the platform Fiverr, which says selling fake reviews is against its terms of practice, but rather the 1,114 “John Does” writing the reviews, and “will amend this complaint to allege their true names and capacities when ascertained”.
It asks the court to order all those responsible for the practice to stop posting fake reviews, refrain from using Amazon’s trademark, and provide information about which reviews they were paid to write.
The lawsuit continues: “Amazon is entitled to recover Defendants’ profits, actual damages and costs in an amount to be proven at trial or statutory damages of up to $100,000 per domain name, treble damages, attorneys’ fees and transfer of the infringing domain names to Amazon.”