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"We need coordinated assistance from consumer protection regulators around the world," Amazon writes. But the company lobbied forcefully and successfully against the INFORM act, which would have helped identify sellers with bad intent and add transparency to online marketplaces (strangely, Amazon has taken some of the actions it objects to independently). And that line is suspiciously absent when it is Amazon that consumers need to be protected against. "It is also critical that we hold bad actors-and the service providers that provide them with fake reviews-accountable for their activity," the post continues. But while lawsuits and partnerships with law enforcement are part of that, once again the call to "work together" rings hollow when Amazon itself is where the activity occurs and the company is in complete control of that ecosystem. Though it has banned some major players from the store, innumerable others flout the rules with impunity.
Why Amazon's Crackdown On Fraudulent Sellers Is A Win For Everyone Ethan McAfee is CEO and Founder of Amify, the first turnkey Amazon-as-a-service provider. If you've purchased a product on Amazon and soon after received a message from the seller asking you to leave a five-star review, you may have been the target of a fake review scheme. Such incidents aren't isolated; they're big business. Last year, a news outlet's investigation revealed that a Germany-based company was offering Amazon sellers 1,000 fake reviews for a bulk price of 8,999 euros. Practices like these hurt consumers, Amazon and its third-party seller community. Thankfully, the online retailer has had enough. Amazon recently suspended multiple high-profile sellers for using banned techniques to get reviews. Fake Reviews Have Long Permeated Amazon Amazon reviews are a powerful tool. They help customers determine product quality and authenticity. For sellers, reviews are even more critical. More feedback can mean a higher ranking in user searches. But not all sellers are playing by the rules. Instead of earning great reviews through top-notch products, some have chosen the path of review manipulation. Some use Facebook groups to solicit positive reviews in return for a payment or refund. Others use innocuous techniques like email or product inserts to request that much-prized five-star customer review. Both violate Amazon's product review policies, which stipulate that sellers can only request a review; they can't ask for a high rating or incentivize feedback through discounts or refunds. Many of the sellers accused of employing tactics like these aren't fly-by-night brands. You may not recognize the names Mpow, Aukey or Vtin, but these and other Chinese sellers suspended by Amazon were among its top sellers with tens of thousands of reviews and more than $1 billion in sales. Mpow, for instance, sells headphones. For years, its products ranked in the top 100 products in the headphones category, making it a highly visible brand to consumers. But its continued success is allegedly based on fake review schemes. Just The Tip of The Iceberg Review manipulation isn't the only tactic employed by trickster brands. Last year, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington indicted a ring of Amazon employees, contractors and third-party sellers as part of what one news article called "a conspiracy to attack competitors on Amazon's platform and steal valuable proprietary data from the company." Prosecutors claimed that the sellers paid over $100,000 in bribes to Amazon employees for their help. The parties were accused of suspending competitors' accounts, flooding their product listings with fake customer reviews and offensive content, sharing competitive intelligence about competitors' products and advertising strategies and reinstating suspended accounts and products. But why take the risk in doing things like this? To answer that question, we need to understand how the Amazon marketplace has evolved. Scheming To Beat The Competition As Amazon has grown to be the online giant it is today, sellers have had to learn to compete in a marketplace where hundreds of brands are vying for the same buyers. Many of them have quickly found that the Field of Dreams discoverability tactics that used to work - if you build it, they will come - no longer cut it. Instead, many brands have chosen to try to cheat the system - a strategy that could inevitably cost them big. Amazon's Crackdown Is A Win For Everyone But there are winners here, notably consumers. Reviews are incredibly important when driving purchase decisions. Nobody wants to be lied to by a review that's not genuine. The fewer fake reviews that infiltrate Amazon, the better the customer experience will be. Amazon's muscle-flexing against fraudulent brands is also a big win for those brands that play by the rules. It's no secret that fake reviews have been a problem on the platform for some time, and this is an important next step to leveling the playing field. Finally, a zero-tolerance approach is good for Amazon too. Cracking down on black hat tactics is an important step to winning back consumer trust and preserving revenue streams. This is helped further when combined with proactive steps to help sellers secure good reviews, such as those that come through Amazon Vine. Let's hope this is just the beginning of the end to this anti-competitive, anti-consumer, billion-dollar problem. Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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