How much would it be worth to a third-party seller on Amazon to be able to have negative reviews deleted? Get internal sales volume and buyer habit statistics? Or even get a banned Amazon marketplace account restored?
Reportedly, between $80 to more than $2,000. And that’s said to have led to an internal investigation within Amazon, primarily in China but also in the U.S., to find employees who may allegedly be taking payments in violation of its policies and code of business conduct and ethics.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that brokers in China are offering to be intermediaries to buy confidential information for sellers on Amazon. The information is designed to give the independent merchants an advantage over others on the site. The Journal, which cites sellers and brokers as well as individuals familiar with internal Amazon investigations, reports that brokers “search for Amazon employees on Chinese messaging platform WeChat and send messages asking them if they would like to provide these services in exchange for cash.”
“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.
On its Amazon Services site, the company says it’s been offering third-party sellers a place to market products since 2000. Sellers can list products in more than 20 categories, and professional sellers “can apply to sell in at least 10 additional categories.”
In his most recent annual letter to shareholders, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos wrote, “In 2017, for the first time in our history, more than half of the units sold on Amazon worldwide were from our third-party sellers, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).”
Amazon has been challenged for years by sellers trying to game its ranking and ratings systems. It recently won arbitration rulings against several marketers, book authors and publishers who it accused of abusing the Kindle Direct Publishing program with a variety of tactics. It also has filed numerous lawsuits against people who allegedly offer to write fake product reviews.