Industry questions credibility of Amazon reviews

Amazon is being bombarded with fake reviews of products from unknown brands that is putting the credibility of its user reviews under question, according to independent research from Which?.

When Which? undertook research on 14 popular product categories,  including headphones, smart watches and fitness trackers, it found Amazon was awash with five star reviews of little known branded products from unverified sources – which means there is no evidence the reviewer has bought the item – that were placed on the site in a short space of time.

As an example Which? found the first page of results on a search of headphones delivered all unknown brands and 87% of the 12,000-plus reviews for these products were from unverified users.

This points to the high likelihood of the reviews being fake, according to ReviewMeta, who analysed the Which? findings. Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: “Our research suggests Amazon is losing the battle against fake reviews – with shoppers bombarded with dubious comments aimed to artificially boosting products from unknown brands.”

This is a serious situation as 97% of shoppers rely on online customer reviews to help them make a purchase, with the CMA calculating that as much as £23 billion of annual consumer spending is potentially influenced by online reviews.

Hitchins suggested Amazon should do more to purge its website of such content to which the company responded by stating that it uses a combination of techniques including investigation teams and automated technology to spot fake reviews. It also said it uses machine learning to analyse reviews 24/7 as well as working with social media sites to block fake reviews at the source.

Amazon responded to allegations saying it uses a combination of investigators and automate technology to detect inauthentic reviews. "We estimate more than 90% of inauthentic reviews are computer generated, and we use machine learning technology to analyse all incoming and existing reviews 24/7 and block or remove inauthentic reviews," the tech giant said in a statement.

"Our team investigates suspect reviews, works with social media sites to stop inauthentic reviews at the source, pursues legal action to stop offenders  from planning reviews abuse, and feeds new information into our automated systems so it continues to improve and become more effective in catching abuse."

This article has been amended on 17/04/19 to include Amazon's statement.