Amazon lawsuit accuses company of selling fake reviews

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In what Amazon calls a first, the online retailer on Tuesday sued a Rhode Island man and his company for allegedly selling fake 5-star product reviews and other positive feedback to third-party retailers who sell products on Amazon.com.

Driving the news: The trialfiled in King County Superior Court, alleges that Trey King and his online business, AuctionSentinel.com, sell fake “verified reviews” to retailers and post reviews to “artificially inflate seller ratings in the Amazon store .com.”

  • “Defendants actively deceive Amazon customers and tarnish Amazon’s brand for their own benefit, as well as for the benefit of dishonest sellers,” the lawsuit alleges.

Why is this important: The lawsuit is Amazon’s first to arrest those who attempt to orchestrate the posting of false seller reviews as part of a broader effort to crack down on deceptive practices on its retail site, according to the company.

The other side: King did not immediately respond to multiple phone messages and emails seeking comment on Tuesday.

Between the lines: On Tuesday morning, King described himself on his company’s website as an e-commerce expert with 21 years of experience, including running his own stores on eBay and Amazon.

  • “I don’t care if I’m flashy and more like some ‘gurus’ you find online,” her website bio said. “I’m an average person like you; I happen to have an excessive knowledge of e-commerce topics.”
  • The biography was removed from website later Tuesday.

State of play: Among the services marketed on Auction Sentinel as of Tuesday morning were “Amazon feedback” packages offering to “make real purchases on your Amazon account and turn them into 5-Star Positive Feedback”.

  • Pricing options ranged from a $300 “basic” package offering 10 reviews for a single store, to an $800 “enterprise” package offering 100 reviews for six online stores.
  • Later Tuesday, King’s website added a warning in red letterssaying that he “does not sell dream products (sic)”.

Details: The 19-page lawsuit alleges violations by King and his company of the Washington Consumer Protection Act and violations of Amazon.com’s contractual provisions.

  • He is seeking court orders prohibiting King and his company from selling future reviews and identifying previous reviews sold and profits made.
  • The lawsuit also asks the court to award Amazon damages and legal costs to be determined.

What they say : “Attempting to manipulate seller feedback is unfair to customers and honest Amazon business partners,” Kebharu Smith, associate general counsel at Amazon and director of its counterfeiting unit, told Axios in an emailed statement. tuesday.

Background: While the fake review lawsuit is a first for the company, Amazon has stepped up its efforts to combat fraud and broader counterfeiting.

  • Last year, Amazon sued more than 170 people and companies for allegedly selling counterfeit items on its website, and prosecuted or referred more than 600 cases for investigation in the United States, Europe and China, according to a spokesperson.
  • The company has spent more than $900 million and hired more than 12,000 people to guard against fraud and stopped more than 2.5 million alleged “bad actors” from selling accounts, according to two infringement lawsuits filed on last month.
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