Amazon customers are being “duped” by a torrent of fake reviews on the site which the retailer is failing to combat, according to a consumer watchdog.
Which?’s latest report saw it independently test eight devices sold by unknown Chinese brands, all of which had hundreds glowing consumer reviews, with some even being awarded the “Amazon Choice” endorsement, bumping the items up search listings.
Despite being given the Amazon Choice badge, a pair of Yineme brand headphones with 800 reviews and an overall score of 4.4 stars were found to have “exceptionally poor” sound quality, rendering their noise cancelling function worthless.
Which?’s independent analysis of the item gave it a score of just 37 per cent and a “Don’t Buy” warning.
It also tested a cordless vacuum cleaner from Onson, which was similarly awarded an Amazon Choice badge and had an average rating of 4.4 stars, and found it to be one of the lowest scoring vacuum cleaners it had ever tested scoring just 32 per cent.
All of the items tested has “exceptionally high” user ratings and hundreds of reviews, but almost all fell short of the average Which? rating in their respective categories.
Amazon has never revealed to the public how it determines which products get an Amazon Choice rating, but stated in response to a previous report: “We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations, and we proactively monitor multiple sources for safety notifications, including from regulatory agencies and direct contacts from brands, manufacturers, and sellers.”
Online reviews are estimated to influence £23 billion in transactions every year in the UK alone, but Which? has criticised the online retail giant for failing to do enough to stop them being manipulated by click farms.
“Customer reviews should be a helpful resource for shoppers choosing what to buy and billions of pounds are spent every year based on this feedback, so it’s vital that Amazon takes stronger action to ensure people can trust the information they see online and aren’t duped into buying poor quality products,” Which? head of home products and services Natalie Hitchins said.
Hitchins went to on call for the regulator to take action as there “appears to be no sense of urgency from the industry to tackle this problem”, after numerous similar reports from Which? have highlighted the issue.
“We urge the regulator to investigate how fake reviews are used to manipulate consumers, and to crack down on sites that fail to take appropriate action to combat this.”
In response an Amazon spokesman said: “Amazon is relentless in our efforts to protect the integrity of reviews. Any attempt to manipulate customer reviews is strictly prohibited and in the last year alone, we’ve spent over 400 million dollars (£308 million) to protect customers from reviews abuse, fraud, and other forms of misconduct.”