Amazon Is Busy Fighting Counterfeit Goods and Fake Reviews

In its first Brand Protection Report, Amazon revealed that it “seized and destroyed” 2+ million counterfeit products sent to Amazon warehouses in 2020 and “blocked more than 10 billion suspected bad listings before they were published in our store.” The products were destroyed so they would not be “resold elsewhere in the supply chain.” This number, however, only represents products from sellers that used Amazon fulfillment services. Amazon also removed tech accessory brands linked to fake review schemes.

Ars Technica reports Amazon vice president Dharmesh Mehta stated that, “throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen increased attempts by bad actors to commit fraud and offer counterfeit products.” Counterfeiting has been a consistent problem on Amazon and a 2019 U.S. appeal court ruling found that the company “can be held responsible for defective third-party goods.”

In another case before the Texas Supreme Court, “Amazon is again arguing that it should not be held liable for a defective third-party product in a case … that involves a severely injured toddler.” The company stated that, in 2020, “fewer than 0.01 percent of all products sold on Amazon received a counterfeit complaint from customers.” Of course, that doesn’t include customers who unknowingly bought and used counterfeit products or didn’t report them.

In its defense, Amazon also said that, in 2020, it “invested over $700 million and employed more than 10,000 people to protect our store from fraud and abuse” and that it uses “a combination of advanced machine learning capabilities and expert human investigators to protect our store proactively from bad actors and bad products.”

That included preventing “over 6 million attempts to create new selling accounts, stopping bad actors before they published a single product for sale.” Last year, Amazon also established a Counterfeit Crimes Unit to refer cases to law enforcement and “pursue civil litigation against counterfeiters.”

Another problem are so-called bait-and-switch reviews “in which sellers trick Amazon into displaying reviews for unrelated products to get to the top of Amazon’s search results.” For example, one company selling a $23 drone with 6,400 reviews equaling a five-star average rating was relying on thousands of previous reviews for honey. When the honey reviews were purged, the remaining 348 ratings for the drone earned a 3.6-star average.

Digital Trends reports that a range of electronic accessories including “chargers, cables, webcams, keyboards, mice, speakers, and headphones” have disappeared from Amazon’s site after SafetyDetectives “uncovered a massive trove of datapointing to wide-reaching pay-for-play review systems purportedly focused on China-based phone and computer accessory companies that primarily sell on Amazon.”

Numerous companies were paying “to generate real-looking — but completely falsified — reviews for new products … [to] shoot up the Amazon rankings for having a high number of reviews and an average rating.”

Third-party companies would buy the products, “submit favorable 5-star reviews from fake user accounts, and then be reimbursed for the products (and then some) via a separate payment platform.” The leak exposed 75,000+ Amazon accounts being used for the service, although “there could be many more individuals or smaller groups implicated in the scheme.”

Related:
Prime Today, Gone Tomorrow: Chinese Products Get Pulled from Amazon, TechCrunch, 5/11/21