Amazon festive shoppers are warned to watch out for misleading reviews: C4 documentary reveals items are boosted by entirely different product appraisals… including a cat-scratching post instead of headphones
Festive shopper warned to watch out for misleading product reviews on Amazon Channel 4 show The Truth About Amazon revealed some unrelated reviews Found some five-star ratings on products were linked to entirely different items
As lockdown Britain edges closer to Christmas, online retailer Amazon is poised to reap the benefits from the nation’s boarded-up high streets.
But festive shoppers are being warned to watch out for misleading product reviews on the website – after an investigation by Channel 4 found some five-star ratings were linked to entirely different items.
The findings, revealed in documentary The Truth About Amazon, reveals popular products such as headphone adapters had their average review ratings boosted by a series of unrelated appraisals for items such as remote-controlled helicopters, a cat scratching post and even an inflatable birthing ball.
A ‘dog casino’ for pets, which had more than 17,354 reviews and a 4.3-star average rating, had actually pooled reviews left for other dog toys from the same range.
Festive shoppers are being warned to watch out for misleading product reviews on the website after an investigation by Channel 4 found some five-star ratings were linked to entirely different items
Consumer magazine Which? said it meant customers could be misled over the popularity and quality of products.
Neema Bahti from Which? told the show: ‘You have to actually start reading and doing a bit of your own sleuthing to see “are these reviews actually genuine? Are they talking about the product that I’m actually looking to buy?”
‘And that’s why we really do think that online sites need to do much more to ensure that the reviews that they have online are genuine and can be trusted by those that are shopping on their sites.’
The underhand tactics are employed by third-party sellers who are keen to boost sales of new products on the site. Items without reviews, or with few reviews, appear further down in searches and sell less well.
To overcome this, sellers take an existing product page and update the photograph and description to show an entirely new product. This retains (or ‘hijacks’) the reviews left for the previous item – making it look like it has been tried-and-tested.
But the practice is against Amazon’s rules. While T-shirts which come in different sizes and colours can be listed on the same page, items which are different products should not.
Consumer magazine Which? said the reviews meant customers could be misled over the popularity and quality of products
When C4 informed Amazon of its findings the company removed all the hijacked reviews the same day.
One set of adapters went from having 600 reviews and a 4.6-star rating to just three reviews and a one-star rating; another set dropped from 4,520 reviews and a 4.6-star rating to zero.
It is not the first time that Amazon, which reported its largest-ever quarterly profits of £5billion and sales of £70million, has come under fire over its reviews.
Amazon has deleted hundreds of thousands of ‘fake’ five-star reviews left for products sold by third parties, often unknown Chinese brands and manufacturers.
In May this year – two months into lockdown – a report estimated 58 per cent of products on its UK site were accompanied by fake reviews.
The programme, which will air on Tuesday and is presented by Helen Skelton and Sabrina Grant (pictured), also discovered other retailers are undercutting themselves and selling their own products more cheaply on Amazon
The programme, which will air on Tuesday and is presented by Helen Skelton and Sabrina Grant, also discovered that High Street retailers such as Hamleys, Paperchase, Mountain Warehouse and Blacks are undercutting themselves and selling their own products more cheaply on Amazon.
The online retailer is also selling second-hand products on its Amazon Renewed site at higher prices than they cost brand new, it found.
Amazon told the programme: ‘We encourage customers who are concerned about the authenticity of reviews left on a product to use the “Report Abuse” link.
‘We…have clear policies for both reviewers and selling partners that prohibit abuse of our community features. We suspend, ban, and take legal action against those who violate these policies.’
The Truth About Amazon: How To Shop Smart starts at 9.15pm on Tuesday on Channel 4.