Amazon monitors product reviews by the public and manages to delete most fake reviews, but “merged reviews” are proving to be a problem as scammers are increasingly using them.
Merged reviews are where a seller may have multiple items that are basically the same item but with very minor differences such as woolly hats where one has a bobble on top and the other doesn’t.
In these cases Amazon allows for the same reviews to appear on both products.
But scammers are merging reviews for entirely different products in order to show popularity for items that haven’t earned it.
Which? magazine investigated this and found for example reviews for headphones that are actually reviews for cuddly toys – done as a way of getting apparently excellent reviews for a new product. Some of the these scammers are dumb enough to do this even where the original reviews have photos attached to show they are completely different products.
Which? found that nine out of 10 of the top-rated headphones on the site earlier this year had glowing reviews for a range of unrelated products.
Amazon took action to remove these products and reviews, once informed of the problem.
But using such reviews for unrelated products is against Amazon’s terms and conditions, because it can make something look more popular than it is.
Which? focused on just one category – Bluetooth-enabled headphones – and followed the reviews for the top 10 products over the course of a month, from February to March this year.
Most of the brands were not household names and were all sold by more than one seller, so Which? was unable to determine whether the brands themselves were implicated in any wrongdoing.
One headphone listing had 863 reviews for a personalised jigsaw puzzle, while a third had 1,386 reviews for beach umbrellas
Only one of the headphones on the list, made by one of the best-known audio electronics firm Bose, showed no evidence of review merging. But its headphones were ranked only eighth best out of the 10 investigated.
Which? magazine focussed on earphones but also found that various other products have the same problem.
If you’re relying on customer reviews, then try to make sure they are genuine.
E.g. check if there is a photo attached that matches the product and ignore any reviews that could conceivably be for anything else.
If you have any experiences with these issues do let me know, by email.