As part of its quest to root out fake product reviews and reviewers, Amazon has changed its guidelines to ban most reviews done in exchange for free and discounted items.
Amazon said its review rules never allowed compensation in exchange for reviews, but with one loophole. People could review a product in exchange for getting it for free or at a discounted price, if they disclosed they were doing an “incentivized review.” Those types of reviews are now banned unless facilitated through Amazon’s Vine program.
The Vine program consists of a small network of trusted reviewers contacted by Amazon to analyze new products. Amazon says it doesn’t do anything to influence those reviews, and it doesn’t even require reviewers to write something.
Amazon began cracking down on fake reviews in early 2015, targeting websites and individuals selling reviews on Fiverr.com, an online marketplace. The company has filed suit against more than 1,000 defendants since the beginning of 2015 and Amazon has found hundreds of people offering to write fake reviews for money.
The company sees fake reviews as a real threat, with the power to “undermine the trust” Amazon has built with customers, “thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand,” according to one of the lawsuits.