(Pocket-lint) - We probably all know the temptation when browsing Amazon without an exact item in mind - you gravitate towards listings that have hundreds, or even thousands of glowing reviews to bolster their reputation.
Many people have also doubtless noticed that while most of these reviews seemingly come from random people who just decided to leave their thoughts after a purchase, there are some more frequent reviewers who appear to be churning out countless reviews.
The Financial Times has taken a detailed look into the practices of Amazon UK's top 10 most prolific reviewers, and at even that small sample size has uncovered what look a lot like shady goings-on.
The number one reviewer on Amazon UK, one Justin Fryer, seems to churn out multiple reviews a day for products from vacuums to laptops, all of which most tech journalists would struggle to adequatley test in the time between his uploads. Meanwhile, it would appear that he's selling on what he claimed to the FT were duplicate items of the same listings via eBay and other reselling sites. This pattern appears to recur throughout the ranks of top reviewers.
Being sent an item for free, in exchange for a review on Amazon, is a concept that's expressly not allowed in Amazon's terms of services, and when those reviews are almost guaranteed to be glowing and five star-rated, it starts to look a little more like bribery.
After being contacted by the FT, a bunch of the top reviewers in the UK appeared to have either taken their reviews down or changed their profiles to avoid scrutiny. Now, Amazon has taken stronger action still, taking down around 20,000 reviews that it saw as tainted by association with the FT's report.
These 20,000 reviews apparently come from seven of the 10 top reviewers, which is a further demonstration of just how many items were supposedly being properly assessed by these individuals.
A couple of weeks ago an academic study from California drew similar conclusions about Amazon's problem with fake reviewers, adding fuel to the fire in this area from Amazon's point of view.
The retail giant, meanwhile, has responded by launching an investigation into a problem that it'll see as threatening the basic trust in its services that encourages people to shop with it.
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This story was first published on 4 September 2020, then updated on 7 September 2020 to reflect further action taken by Amazon to remove reviews.