Why it matters: Sellers on Amazon are willing to take significant risks to beat the competition, including paying to have negative reviews removed. Typically, these interactions have been facilitated by intermediaries that seek out Amazon employees who are willing to offer such services.
In China, middlemen reportedly use the messaging service WeChat to approach Amazon employees and relay information to merchants, which then pay anywhere from around $80 to more than $2 000 for the data and services rendered, the Journal reported.
"We have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them".
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Amazon claims that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate, but data collected from the Post earlier this year found that more than half of the reviews in four product categories were found to be "questionable".
"We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties", an Amazon spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal in confirming the company was investigating the payment claims.
Amazon encourages third-party sellers to sign up on its website. Such practices break the integrity of online reviews and manipulative practices can falsely give the impression that certain products are actually best sellers.
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Even though Amazon has revamped its system to amplify reviews from customers who genuinely bought the product, sellers using paid reviewers have found ways around this - the podcast talks to a reviewer at a company using the strategy of tying fake accounts to random addresses all over the USA and shipping actual products to them.
However, the practice - which is a direct violation of Amazon policies - can also be used to hoodwink customers that are only shown positive reviews. They are also facilitating bribes to staff for deleting negative reviews, or handing over the contact details for those who left negative reviews so merchants can try to convince them to amend the low-star ratings they left.
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