On Tuesday, Amazon filed a lawsuit against companies AppSally and Rebatest, claiming they functioned as fake review brokers on Amazon’s online marketplace. The lawsuits were filed in Seattle, Washington’s King County Superior Court.
Allegedly, both companies connected consumers with third-party sellers. Amazon says the consumers agreed to leave a positive review of products for third-party sellers as a trade-off for a free product or payment. Amazon has been working to expose fake reviews on the third-party marketplace, which accounts for more than half of e-commerce sales and brings in record revenue for the company. With millions of third-party merchants, the fake review issue continues to be a problem.
Amazon claimed in a statement that these two companies “helped mislead shoppers by having their members try to post fake reviews in stores” like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Etsy. AppSally and Rebatest are said to have over 900,000 users “willing to write fake reviews,” according to the statement. Neither company has commented on the issue.
Court filings reveal that both companies have been operating since 2018. AppSally allegedly set up a scheme where the company would receive a fee from sellers to receive “verified reviews.” Sometimes these fees were as low as $25.
Sellers would provide AppSally with links to their product as well as photos to include in their review, then ship out empty boxes to AppSally. The goal was to work the search engine system by boosting sellers’ products in the Amazon search results. According to AppSally’s website, sellers were promised that they would be able to “outrank your competitors from your bedroom.”
Rebatest operated in a similar manner by offering sellers a collection of reviews and other services to boost product rankings. After placing an order for a product on Amazon and leaving a review, Rebatest would allegedly refund that user’s purchase through a service like PayPal. In the suit, Amazon is seeking an injunction against both companies, barring them from selling or facilitating the sale of Amazon reviews, as well as unspecified damages.
This lawsuit represents one of many steps Amazon is taking to decrease fake reviews and other types of fraud. Other courses of action Amazon is taking include investments in human moderators and machine-learning tools. It is reaching out to other social media companies for assistance in this area as well because some of these channels have become hubs for fake review communities, such as various Facebook groups or in messaging apps such as Telegram, WhatsApp, and WeChat.