This should be read in conjunction with the previous article Why Amazon is Removing Reviews the content of which remains relevant.
Undoubtedly, though it remains a topic of discussion for some, product reviews can be influential in shopper decisions. As a result, many producers, including authors, are, and have been for some time, tempted to game the facility by obtaining false, or inappropriate, reviews. Amazon, probably the world’s largest online retailer, sought to bring this under control by imposing strict reviewing conditions along with repercussions for those who breached the rules. This appeared to have some impact though, as most authors and readers will know, regrettable anomalies arose with some valid reviews being deleted. Unfortunately, despite the penalties, many people have continued to abuse the system leading Amazon to impose even more draconian conditions and penalties.
The following is a verbatim copy of the enhanced rules:
‘Customers trust that they can shop with confidence on Amazon. Reviews provide a forum for sharing authentic feedback about products and services – positive or negative. Any attempt to manipulate reviews, including by directly or indirectly contributing false, misleading or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited.
We take the integrity of our reviews platform very seriously. If we determine that you have attempted to manipulate reviews or violated our guidelines in any other manner, we may immediately suspend or terminate your Amazon privileges, remove reviews, and delist related products. In addition, if we determine that an Amazon account has been used to engage in review manipulation, remittances and payments may be withheld or forfeited. Misconduct may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act, and can lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties.
We pursue lawsuits for reviews manipulation against dishonest sellers and manufacturers who attempt to purchase fraudulent reviews and the parties who provide and post those reviews. These lawsuits have produced monetary judgments exceeding the annual revenue for such sellers and data allowing us to take additional enforcement actions against others. We suspend and ban the accounts of others who engage in review abuse or otherwise violate our guidelines. We will continue to remove reviews that violate our policies and pursue the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fraudulent reviews and the individuals and organizations who supply fraudulent reviews through all available means.
We encourage anyone who suspects that review manipulation is taking place or that our guidelines are being violated in any other manner to notify us. We will investigate the concern thoroughly and take any appropriate actions.’
Anyone seeking reviews AND those who propose to write a review should ensure they fully comprehend each and every aspect of the rules. If they do not, they may make themselves subject to severe, and very damaging, repercussions.
There is much to take in and though the temptation was to highlight specific elements it would probably be a disservice to do so. Nevertheless, there are a couple of salient points which could do with drawing out. These are repeated below with some additional explanation.
‘In addition, if we determine that an Amazon account has been used to engage in review manipulation, remittances and payments may be withheld or forfeited.’
For authors, ‘remittances and payments’ means royalties. Therefore, in all likelihood, any payments due at the time of the infringement will not be paid. This is in addition to being banned from reviewing or selling on Amazon. Of course, there are other book retailers and being banned from Amazon would not be the end of the world. Nonetheless, they loss access to a very large market not to mention the damage their reputation may suffer, never a good thing.
‘Misconduct may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act, and can lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties.’
Authors take note: criminal charges with ‘criminal penalties’ are likely to be against them as the product producer, seller, and person seeking reviews.
Amazon considers the following as ‘review manipulation’ and ‘misconduct’ and will take action accordingly:
- Paying for reviews.
- Trading them (i.e. exchanging review for review).
- Offering gifts or prizes (applies even if only a token gift or prize).
- Giving free review copies.
- Anything that acts as an incentive beside the blurb, description, or equivalent.
Regrettably, as already mentioned, despite all the warnings and consequences experienced by many, people continue to abuse the system.
Authors: in addition to the above, using your mailing lists and email contacts to request (or beg for) reviews may be considered a breach of rules with the consequent penalties, as outlined.
Readers: take care not to be tempted by inappropriate offers in exchange for a review. Accepting such will place you in the position of a rule breaker. Be assured, you will be penalised and will probably be prevented from submitting any further reviews and may even have your account closed.
Disproportionate actions: It is accepted Amazon’s draconian action in past times has resulted in the deletion of many valid book reviews and some reviewers being blocked altogether. This is disappointing for both author and reviewer however, Amazon needed to take action. Some have tried to get ‘appropriate’ reviews restored but mostly, so it is understood, without success. The issue is not helped by the fact monitoring is conducted by means of artificial intelligence (computer software systems). Naturally, human monitoring would be preferable but the cost would be considerable.
The abuse and misuse of reviews has to be dealt with in all quarters. If it is not, reviews will become meaningless and may, more than likely will, result in unfair business trading practices. It may also result in customer dissatisfaction where products do not live up to the intimated quality.
When, despite the instigation of revised rules and penalties people continue to act inappropriately, companies have little option but to enhance existing conditions and penalties. Amazon has now taken such action. The fact it is prepared to take legal action shows how serious the matter has become.
Authors and readers must ensure they are fully familiar with the enhanced rules so as not to inadvertently fall foul of them.
Naturally, though the emphasis has been on authors and book reviewers, the conditions outlined above apply to all products.
To view the rules within Amazon’s own site, click here.
Reminder: The above should be read in conjunction with the previous article Why Amazon is Removing Reviews.