Amazon.com Inc. filed a lawsuit against more than 1,000 unidentified people selling fake reviews on its Web store, attempting to stamp out efforts by merchants and manufacturers seeking to boost the appeal of their products.
The largest online retailer said it sued freelancers offering to write fictional reviews on Fiverr.com, an online marketplace where people can be hired for minor tasks at prices starting at $5. The lawsuit was filed in state court in Seattle, Amazon said.
Amazon’s steps follow an earlier action taken in April, when Amazon sued several websites that sold fake customer reviews. Amazon gives anyone, whether they are customers or not, the ability to review products sold on its online store. Fake reviews -- positive or negative -- undermines Amazon’s goal of making sure that customers have the information they need to shop on the store, the company said.
"While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon’s brand," Amazon said in its complaint.
The defendants are identified as John Does 1 to 1,114 in the lawsuit. Amazon said it conducted an extensive investigation, which included communicating with people on Fiverr and purchasing fake customer reviews from those who promised five-star ratings and offered to let the purchaser write the review themselves.
Amazon said the lawsuit isn’t targeted at Fiverr, which isn’t a defendant in the complaint. While Fiverr has a take-down process in place, it doesn’t solve the root cause, Amazon said.
"We continue to use a number of mechanisms to detect and remove the small fraction of reviews that violate our guidelines," said Julie Law, a spokeswoman for Amazon. "We are currently taking legal action against a number of individuals including many that are referred to here."
Fiverr said it’s working with Amazon to resolve the issue.