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Pallone & Schakowsky Question Amazon’s Oversight of Fake Online Product Reviews

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos today raising concerns about fraudulent and deceptive product ratings and reviews on Amazon’s online marketplace that can be harmful both to consumers and to businesses that play by the rules.  The lawmakers are also questioning whether Amazon benefits financially from the sale of products promoted by fake ratings and reviews.

Recent reports have questioned the integrity of Amazon’s ratings and reviews, including an investigation that found thousands of fake reviews with obvious signs of fraud across dozens of popular tech categories on Amazon.  Other reports describe a massive spike in blatantly fake reviews in the last several months, particularly with respect to inexpensive, off-brand electronics.  Those products frequently dominate the front page of Amazon’s search results and many include labels describing the products as “Amazon’s choice.”   

“Online reviews significantly affect consumers’ shopping decisions and it is important that Amazon proactively protect consumers from such misleading and harmful behavior,” Pallone and Schakowsky wrote to Bezos.  “The use of the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ label on these products is of particular concern because your company’s website promotes these products to consumers as ‘highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately.”

Sellers on Amazon reportedly pay as much as $10,000 per month to generate positive reviews to trick consumers into buying their products.  Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled with a company that paid for fake Amazon reviews, a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.  Although the FTC’s oversight is helpful, many businesses are still purchasing fake reviews to lure consumers into buying their products.

“These fraudulent reviews can crowd out genuine comments and put honest sellers at an unfair disadvantage,” Pallone and Schakowsky continued.  “Amazon can and should do more to protect consumers from these deceptive practices and we would like to better understand what measures your company is taking to address this issue.”

Pallone and Schakowsky requested information and responses to a series of questions from Amazon by July 30, including:

  • How does Amazon identify, prevent, and respond to fraudulent or deceptive product reviews?  If Amazon’s processes have evolved over time, please describe how they have changed. 
  • What steps has Amazon taken within the last 12 months to prevent or remove fraudulent or deceptive product ratings and reviews?
  • Please identify the ten product categories with the highest number of deceptive or fraudulent product reviews, as determined by Amazon, and state the number of deceptive or fraudulent product ratings or reviews found for each such category in the past 12 months. 
  • How does Amazon determine whether to label a product as “Amazon’s Choice”? 

Click HERE to read the full letter.


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