Amazon Lawsuits Move to Block False Product Reviews

June 13, 2016

Online ReviewsRecently, Amazon sued multiple operators of product review websites.  Amazon alleges that some of the reviews presented by those sites are fake.  The presence of fake product reviews undermines the value of online product assessments.  The fake reviews can mislead and harm consumers who rely upon them.

Consumers now routinely consult a range of websites to read reviews regarding the quality of products and services as they consider their purchases.  The volume of such reviews now available is staggering.  For instance, Amazon estimates that over 100 million reviews have been posted on the Amazon website alone since 1995.

Matsuura Blakeley BannerA variety of websites claim to offer consumer reviews of products and services.  A number of those websites assert that they provide oversight to ensure that all posted reviews have been verified.  In this way, the sites contend that they perform an important service for consumers.

Online reviews are, however, continually plagued be the problem of fake reviews.  In some instances, the reviewers involved are not actually consumers of the products they discuss, but are instead individuals who have been paid or compensated in some other way to write positive product reviews.  In other cases, individuals who have had a bad experience with a company or product may exaggerate the negative aspects of a product and publish reviews that are unfairly negative.

Over the years, Amazon has been highly active in its efforts to promote greater integrity and accuracy in product reviews.  The company has reportedly sued more than 1000 different defendants in order to reduce the prevalence of false and misleading online product reviews.  Amazon is apparently concerned about deceptive product reviews as such reviews undermine consumer confidence.

In its most recent round of lawsuits filed in 2016, Amazon seems to be focusing on the online review forums that claim to provide product reviews that have been documented and verified.  Consumers are likely to place greater reliance on reviews that claim to be verified, thus false claims presented in these venues can be particularly harmful to the consuming public.

In these lawsuits, Amazon raises a variety of federal and state law claims.  Those claims reportedly include allegations of violations of federal law associated with trademark protection and cybersquatting.  State law claims seem to include allegations of fraud and violation of state consumer protection laws.

Amazon’s efforts to reduce the scope of fake online product reviews provide important support for consumers and for regulatory authorities.  False and undocumented reviews of goods and services mislead consumers.  By undermining consumer confidence and by tainting the accuracy of information available to consumers, they damage the economy and constitute a deceptive and fraudulent practice which must be stopped.