Amazon Asks Court to Reign in Facebook-Based Fake Product Review Schemes

A case filed in Washington state’s King County Superior Court on Monday claims that more than 11,000 doe defendants run Facebook groups that broker fake reviews for products sold on Amazon’s e-commerce platform to buoy those products’ ratings. Plaintiffs Inc. and Services LLC (collectively, Amazon) argue that these “incentivized reviews,” meaning a paid for or otherwise compensated review, erode customer trust and tarnish Amazon’s brand.

The complaint targets Facebook Group administrators, identities unknown due to the fact that the Facebook groups they run are private, and require prospective members to verify their credentials as either an Amazon seller or reviewer prior to admission. One such group, entitled “Amazon Product Review” Group has more than 43,000 members and allegedly incentivizes them to submit “verified product reviews” on Amazon, sometimes by offering them a refund in exchange for a five-star review of a product they purchased.

The complaint says that such reviews are expressly prohibited by Amazon, which strives to detect and remove abusive reviews before a customer ever sees them. In 2020 alone, Amazon said it intercepted more than 200 million suspected fake reviews using machine learning models and dedicated employee teams.

Amazon further claims that the “bad actors” deceive Amazon customers with dishonest and inauthentic reviews while depriving small and medium-size businesses the chance to compete for customers on a fair playing field.“The Facebook Groups dedicated to reviews abuse are operating in plain sight,” the complaint says, adding that the doe defendants know they are enabling sellers to obtain fake reviews and inflated ratings. 

Amazon wants to learn the identity of the Facebook group operators and shut down their groups. The complaint seeks disgorgement of the defendants’ ill-gotten gains and states claims for violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act and interference with contractual relations.

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP represents Amazon in the matter.