Fake Amazon review network shut down by High Court in legal first
A bogus Amazon review ring from Germany has been shut down for the first time following a legal challenge in UK courts.
The High Court has issued injunctions against three companies that offered to boost Amazon seller star ratings using a network of thousands of seemingly genuine reviews.
It comes as the online retail giant comes under pressure from regulators over how it deals with fake reviews.
The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating Amazon and Google, fearing they are not doing enough to protect shoppers.
Amazon has filed a claim in the High Court against three companies based in Malta and Mallorca which traded as AMZTigers and Testerjob, which promised to boost sellers’ items in search results by flooding them with reviews five stars.
The High Court injunction banned companies from trading reviews in the UK and said “any person [breaking the order] may be imprisoned, fined or have their property seized”. It is believed to be the first time UK courts have issued such an injunction.
AMZTigers had 20,000 reviewers in the UK and 62,000 worldwide, which would give the products five-star reviews under marketing schemes.
Reviewers would purchase the awarded products from Amazon and then review them, making them appear authentic, but would be reimbursed for their cost, effectively being showered with free items in exchange for reviews.
Company records show the operations are tied to Norbert Weber, a Berlin-based internet marketing entrepreneur who also runs W3 Internet Marketing, a search engine optimization firm.
Online videos of Mr. Weber promoting AMZTigers show him saying “we are breaking Amazon rules here” and saying the practice was “going to the edge of what is legal”.
The company’s marketing material said it would ‘let your products become bestsellers’ and was selling reviews for €15 (£12.50) each, or bundles of up to 1,000 reviews for a discount.
Testerjob.co.uk offered potential assessors the “chance to get Amazon products for free”.
Positive reviews are highly valued on Amazon because they help products move up the company’s search rankings, making them more visible to shoppers, without having to pay for placement.
After Amazon obtained an injunction, the sites stopped working late last year.
Mr. Weber did not respond to a request for comment.
Amazon UK chief John Boumphrey said: “We are devoting significant resources to preventing the appearance of fake reviews and nudges on Amazon. This is absolutely crucial to earning the trust of our customers. This legal action makes it clear that fraud will not be tolerated in our store and we will not hesitate to pursue bogus review brokers in the UK courts.