Amazon is taking unprecedented action in suing more than 1,000 people who have posted fake customer reviews on its website, the BBC has reported.
The company states its reputation is being damaged, and has filed a lawsuit in Seattle, Washington.
Amazon sued four businesses in April for selling fake reviews, however the latest lawsuit highlights the scale of the problem for the global ecommerce giant, which is now taking on 1,114 defendants, termed "John Does” as the company “does not yet know their real names”.
The issue is made complex by websites such as Fiverr.com, which was launched in 2010 marketplace for creative and professionals but is more and more frequently being used by individuals offering fake review services for as little as $5 (£3.24).
"Amazon is bringing this action to protect its customers from this misconduct, by stopping defendants and uprooting the ecosystem in which they participate," the lawsuit states.
"These reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon's brand.”
Online reviews have grown in stature as one of the fundamental product and service research devices for customers in recent years, however, a number of high-profile events have occurred as a result involving both positive and negative reviews; with perhaps the most famous being the 2013 revelation that Samsung was paying people to criticise its competitor HTC, online.
With a number of similar stories involving an array of businesses also surfacing since, discussions around the topic of trust and authenticity have been amplified from both the consumer and the business-side of the online review debate.
A few years ago, hundreds of hotels and restaurant businesses threatened to take review site TripAdvisor to court over what they viewed as 'unfair' reviews, while in recent times, reports of businesses implementing clauses in their customer contracts prohibiting online reviews.
This was brought to the fore by the Blackpool hotel that charged a Cumbrian couple £100 for posting an undesirable Trip Advisor review.
However, for providers concerned about the impact of fake reviews on their websites, Bazaarvoice’s VP of marketing EMEA, Prelini Udayan-Chiechi, told MyCustomer.com last year that businesses needed to be more thorough in weening fake reviews out:
“What you’re looking for in these fraudulent reviews is not the volume that they’re posting on one individual site, but across the network,” she said.
“So if you have an individual who posts across five or six areas, if you’re a brand like Phillips and you’re working with a number of retailers, you’re able to identify this fraudulent reviewing that’s taking place across a number of sites.”
“The first thing [brands] need to do is respond to the review itself. They should respond to the review questioning, if someone’s complaining about the product, what exactly the problem is, or try to understand if it is indeed a product issue. Find out where it is and get as much information as possible. Raising it online but then taking it offline is a good idea, to offer an area where they can have a discussion with an individual to find out what the issue and concern is.”
Lawsuits such as Amazon’s are very much seen as a last-resort, but could yet set the tone as the issue becomes more and more widespread.