Amazon’s ‘Choice’ rating label is being manipulated by traders to boost sales of mediocre or even dangerous items according to consumer watchdog Which?
According to the online retail giant its ‘Amazon Choice’ recommendation, which appears as next to products as a thin blue badge in the UK, is “our choice for a product we think customers may like”.
Over a third of customers polled by Which? assumed products with this badge had been checked for safety by Amazon, while 44 per cent believed the items were directly checked for quality.
Despite these assumptions the badge is in fact granted to items via an algorithm based on an undisclosed set of criteria including positive reviews, low price and fast shipping.
Some sellers are now reportedly manipulating this algorithm by using a range of underhand tactics to boost their positive reviews, which according to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) influence around £23 billion in sales each year.
Which? cites examples where sellers offered free accessories in exchange for five-star reviews, including a car dashcam which had 24 reviews mentioning a free SD card in exchange for a positive review.
It also highlights a practice called ‘product merging’ in which sellers merge two products, one often with far higher reviews than another, and thus combines their reviews.
One pair of headphones were found to have close to 2000 positive reviews, most of which were about unrelated products like acne cream and razor blades.
“Amazon risks betraying the trust millions of customers place in the Amazon’s Choice badge by allowing its endorsement to be all too easily gamed,” Which?’s Natalie Hitchins said.
“Amazon must ensure its customers aren’t being misled about the products it is recommending to them – or reconsider whether it should continue with the endorsement in its current form.”
In response, Amazon said: “We don’t tolerate Amazon policy violations such as review abuse, incentivised reviews, counterfeits or unsafe products.
“When deciding to badge a product as Amazon’s Choice, we proactively incorporate a number of factors that are designed to protect customers from those policy violations. When we identify a product that may not meet our high bar for products we highlight for customers, we remove the badge.”