The party is ON! Join us at TNW Conference 2021 in Amsterdam for face-to-face business!

The heart of tech

This article was published on October 3, 2016

Amazon finally kills the review scheme responsible for millions of shady ratings

Amazon finally kills the review scheme responsible for millions of shady ratings
Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

Amazon reviews are bullshit. Many of the star-ratings are legitimate and should be taken for what they are — honest reviews from independent buyers. Others, however, use pay-for-play techniques that see sellers incentivizing reviewers with free or reduced-cost merchandise in exchange for an ‘honest’ review.

Outright paying for reviews has always been against the rules, but this incentivized review system somehow remained just under-the-radar enough that Amazon was either oblivious, or chose to ignore it for several years; until now.

Turns out these reviews had a significant impact on overall ratings, and led to a severe fracture in trust for consumers.

As we previously reported:

The average Amazon product has a rating of 4.4 stars. When you factor in incentives, this rating jumps to 4.73 stars, while non-incentivized ratings hover at around 4.33 stars. This 0.40 ratings bump might seem insignificant, until you learn that even an average product (with its 4.4 star rating) jumps from the 54th percentile to the 94th percentile once you factor in the 0.40 star ratings bump.

Today however, Amazon updated its community guidelines with language that would ban this practice entirely.

Unfortunately, the ban doesn’t extend to the Amazon Vine program, or books, but the changes should do wonders to promote honest ratings for a community that relies on them to find the best products. According to Amazon:

“[C]ontent and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including… Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.”

Granted, we can’t be sure that sellers won’t find loopholes in the ban that allow them to incentivize future reviews. In fact, you can be all but certain they will. But action is better than inaction, and in this case, Amazon’s action should lead to a more trustworthy review system.