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An actual image used by one of the paid review sites sued previously by Amazon.
An actual image used by one of the paid review sites sued previously by Amazon.

Amazon is opening a new front in its ongoing battle against fraudulent customer reviews on Amazon.com, taking legal action for the first time against sellers whom the e-commerce giant alleges have purchased false reviews for their own products on its site.

The company has filed demands for arbitration against three Amazon sellers, seeking to enjoin them from selling products on Amazon or opening new accounts on the site, and asking an arbitrator to require the sellers to hold in trust any illegal profits from the sale of products on Amazon based on fraudulent reviews.

In the past, the company has targeted people and services responsible for offering fake reviews for sale. The company has not previously sued sellers themselves, but this move appears to be an attempt to get at the root cause of the issue, sending a message to other Amazon sellers who might be engaged in or considering similar activities.

Amazon declined to discuss the latest legal actions directly, citing a policy against commenting on litigation, but spoke about the broader campaign against fraudulent reviews.

“As always, it is important for customers to know that these remain a very small fraction of the reviews on Amazon and we introduced a review ranking system so that the most recent, helpful reviews appear first,” said Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law in a statement. “The vast majority of reviews on Amazon are authentic, helping millions of customers make informed buying decisions every day.”

The demands for arbitration were filed against Michael Abbara a resident of Fullerton, Calif., who is identified in the complaint as the operator and owner of the Amazon seller “REPZ”; Kurt Bauer of York, Pa., allegedly associated with Amazon seller Barclin Home Products; and Amazon seller CCbetter Direct of China.

Prior to these actions, since the beginning of 2015, the company says it has sued more than 1,000 defendants, including a sting against fake product reviews allegedly sold through freelance site Fiverr.com. The latest batch of lawsuits was filed in April.

“Our goal is to eliminate the incentives for sellers to engage in review abuse and shut down this ecosystem around fraudulent reviews in exchange for compensation. Lawsuits are only one piece of the puzzle,” said Amazon spokeswoman Law. “We are working hard on technologies that allow us to detect and take enforcement action against perpetrators while also preventing fake reviews from ever surfacing.”

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