Amazon Sues Alleged Paid Reviews Broker in Fight Against Faux Five-Star Ratings

Amazon sued a Hong Kong-based company it accuses of connecting third-party retailers to customers willing to write positive reviews for discounts, the company said Friday, part of its effort to crackdown on fraud that plagues the giant e-tailer.

In two separate lawsuits, Amazon asks courts to close the operations of the company, called Extreme Rebate, the company said. It also asks the courts to require the company to hand over information on Amazon merchants who have used the service to pay for reviews. 

The company said it filed the lawsuits in a Washington state court and in Germany. In a draft of the US lawsuit viewed by CNET, Amazon alleges that Extreme Rebate has violated Washington state consumer protection law, interfered with Amazon’s contracts with third-party sellers, and earns money while doing so.

“The brokers approach customers through their own websites and solicit them to write misleading or inflated reviews in exchange for money, free products, or other incentives,” the company said in a press release. Extreme Rebate facilitates payments of $2.50 per five-star review, in addition to a discount or total refund, the e-commerce giant says in its lawsuit.

Extreme Rebate, which is also known as Merchant Global Limited, said in an email that the customers get the products at a discount whether they write a review or not. “They could even write a negative feedback review if they think the product is bad quality,” the company said. The company’s website outlines “3 steps to get free stuff” and features a banner that says “Up to 100% off” next to the Amazon logo. 

Paid reviews remain a consistent problem for Amazon even though it banned the practice eight years ago. The reviews can prompt more customers to buy the products, boosting a seller’s products in Amazon’s sales rankings. That makes Amazon more likely to promote the products as best sellers, making it even more likely for customers to see the listings and make a purchase.

The company says it uses machine learning technology and thousands of employees to crack down on the practice. It struggles to remove them however because the activity is coordinated on external websites and social media groups. 

The lawsuit follows similar actions Amazon has taken against AppSally, Rebatest, Matronex and Fivestar Marketing. 

In 2021, Amazon removed listings for brands selling household items like sonic toothbrushes and hair straighteners that made their products available for paid reviews on a private Facebook group. The company also removed listings for electronics makers Aukey and Mpow after a paid reviews scheme came to light.