AMAZON is only removing a fraction of fake and suspicious product reviews, Which? claims.
The retail giant has removed 78,000 reviews of popular technology products over the past three years, according to the consumer champion, but it said this isn’t “nearly enough” to tackle the problem.
Data from review checker ReviewMeta showed that the percentage of unverified reviews on Amazon has increased from six per cent in the first three months of 2018 to 31 per cent this year.
If a review is unverified, it means the retailer hasn’t been able to verify whether the reviewer has actually bought the product.
In March, the number of unverified reviews on Amazon rose by nearly 300 per cent compared to February, while average star ratings of such reviews were 4.95 out of five.
This means shoppers are potentially being misled into buying products of poor quality by overly positive fake reviews, Which? said.
How to spot fake reviews
HERE are Which?'s top tips for spotting fake reviews.
- Take extra care shopping for brands you don’t know: Scrutinise customer reviews even more carefully if you’re looking to buy a brand you don’t recognise as Which? research indicates they are significantly more likely to be affected by fake reviews.
- Be suspicious of large numbers of reviews: If you see hundreds or even thousands of reviews – be suspicious, especially if they are largely positive.
- Look for repeition: If you see the same review titles, repetitive phrases or even the same reviewer name appear more than once on a product, it’s very likely that it has been targeted by fake reviews.
- Filter to check for unverified versus verified reviews: Reviews marked as “verified” are those that Amazon can confirm were purchased at its website. Unverified reviews do not undergo any such checks. Therefore, unverified reviews are far easier to “fake” – in that they could be written by someone who has had no experience at all with the product.
- Look at the dates: If large numbers of reviews were posted on the same day, or in a short period of time, it’s very likely that they are fake – especially if they are also unverified.
- Check seller profiles: Things you might be wary of are foreign seller locations, strange business names, a lack of contact details, and of course, negative reviews of the seller. Check out the seller profile page before you buy to see if anything seems out of place.
Amazon told The Sun the Which? investigation was flawed and its findings inaccurate.
Earlier this month, the consumer champion found that 87 per cent of 12,000 reviews for the headphones category on a single day were unverified or had a suspiciously high proportion of five-star ratings.
Which? also found “tens of thousands” of potentially fake reviews of just over 20 tech products.
In some cases, hundreds of five-star, unverified reviews were appearing on products in a single day.
And although Amazon has recently removed a large number of suspicious reviews and products, they’re quickly replaced by new ones, Which? said.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Our research shows that while thousands of potentially fake reviews are being removed from Amazon each month, this isn’t nearly enough to address a real problem for online shoppers that seems to be getting worse, not better.
“To avoid being tricked into buying a product that you might otherwise have avoided, watch out for fake reviews and search for independent and trusted sources when looking to make a purchase.”
An Amazon spokesperson said the retailer uses investigators and automated technology to prevent and remove suspect reviews.
They said: “Amazon invests 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.”
It added that its own customer history data “disproved with high confidence” many of the reviews flagged by ReviewMeta as “unnatural”.
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