- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Top lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee launched a probe Monday into fake reviews on Amazon, saying people are committing fraud by fooling consumers over the merits of a product.

Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. and consumer protection subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky asked Amazon president Jeff Bezos to explain what his company does to police reviews, and how it chooses to promote some products to consumers as “Amazon’s Choice.”

The lawmakers said it appears unscrupulous vendors have figured out how to crack Amazon’s algorithms to elevate knock-off products, such as paying for fake positive reviews.

“These fraudulent reviews can crowd out genuine comments and put honest sellers at an unfair disadvantage,” the lawmakers wrote.

In March, ReviewMeta, an American data company, released a report that found nearly 60% of the reviews they analyzed on Amazon within the first three months of 2019 were from unverified buyers. That was up from 9% in the same period in 2018.

The study said nearly all of those unverified reviews were 5-star ratings for off-brand electronics, all created within a few days.

In February, the Federal Trade Commission settled a $12.8 million lawsuit against Cure Encapsulations, Inc., a weight-loss supplement, for buying fake reviews on Amazon.

Mr. Pallone and Ms. Schakowsky said oversight from the federal government isn’t enough, and Amazon must do more to monitor the problem from within.

“The use of the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ Babel on these products is of particular concern because your company’s website promotes these products to consumers,” Mr. Pallone and Ms. Schakowsky wrote. “In fact, recent reports suggest that Amazon does not perform any oversight or due diligence on such products and that many are of poor quality of even defective.”

They gave Mr. Bezos until the end of July to answer their questions.

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