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Amazon changes policy to eliminate incentivised reviews

by Mark Tyson on 4 October 2016, 09:31

Tags: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)

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Amazon boasts of the quality and value of the customer-sourced reviews of the products it sells. However, yesterday it announced changes to its community guidelines "to prohibit incentivised reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program". This change should make reviews even more fair and useful for would-be shoppers.

Previously Amazon allowed third party sellers to pay reviewers in discounts or in goods, but not cash, as long as the reviewer disclosed the incentive received within their review copy. It thought of these incentivised reviews were a good way for new products, perhaps from lesser known firms, to gain a market foothold based upon their merit. However, as noted by ReviewMeta, these incentivised reviews tend to be favourable, showing a bias. To fix this issue, from now on, only Amazon Vine program incentivised reviews will be allowed.

You can read about Amazon Vine, and why it should be a trusted source of good quality reviews here. In summary though, this program is based upon reviews from a selection of "the most trusted reviewers on Amazon," as assessed by Amazon using 'reviewer rank', looking at review history 'helpfulness', and other community feedback. Amazon will gift these reviewers new products which Vine program members want to see reviewed. Amazon Vine is an invitation-only programme and negative reviews won't affect the Vine writer's standing, as long as they continue to be helpful to end customers. Importantly vendors have no contact with the 'Vine Voices', and have no influence over which 'Vine Voices' will review their products.

The above policy changes apply immediately to all product categories sold by Amazon, except for books. Amazon will allow "the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books," to continue.

All charts from ReviewMeta's analysis of 7 million Amazon reviews.



HEXUS Forums :: 19 Comments

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About time !
I was sick of reading ‘glowing’ reviews of garbage.
Will be interesting to see the difference in ratings between incentivised and non-incentivised.

I left an honest 3-star review on a gadget I bought a few months ago - only cost £10-£12 iirc. It was good but had some QC issues. The company offered me a full refund if I changed my review. The temptation of free stuff made me lose all regard for my fellow consumers and I complied, half hoping I'd go an a list of “give this guy free stuff for good reviews”. I didn't.

I felt a little dirty doing it, but I did change my review more to the quality of the customer service rather than the product, something like “I had problems but the company were very helpful” which I felt was fair.

In short, don't trust Amazon reviews, especially on cheap tech.
virtuo
Will be interesting to see the difference in ratings between incentivised and non-incentivised.

I left an honest 3-star review on a gadget I bought a few months ago - only cost £10-£12 iirc. It was good but had some QC issues. The company offered me a full refund if I changed my review. The temptation of free stuff made me lose all regard for my fellow consumers and I complied, half hoping I'd go an a list of “give this guy free stuff for good reviews”. I didn't.

I felt a little dirty doing it, but I did change my review more to the quality of the customer service rather than the product, something like “I had problems but the company were very helpful” which I felt was fair.

In short, don't trust Amazon reviews, especially on cheap tech.

I would have changed my review also… 1 star less and a note about what happened because that is not good customer service. Good customer service would have been an apology and a refund without expectation of a review change, a good reviewer would then have added a note (and left original review intact) to say that they gave an unconditional refund.

Reviews would work if people had a bit of community spirit and wrote honestly but sadly everyone in today's world is only interested in themselves, even for a measly £10.
This was an Interest study by University Colorado Boulder about general usefulness of Amazon star ratings

(Google for “Consumers’ trust in online user ratings misplaced, says CU-Boulder study”).

i.e. better than nothing, but not that much better… It'd be good if they had some way of up-weighting users who give detailed objective assessments, and also separate customer service from product (as sellers can come and go, but the review is supposed to be about the product itself (dammit)).
kingpotnoodle
I would have changed my review also… 1 star less and a note about what happened because that is not good customer service. Good customer service would have been an apology and a refund without expectation of a review change, a good reviewer would then have added a note (and left original review intact) to say that they gave an unconditional refund.

Reviews would work if people had a bit of community spirit and wrote honestly but sadly everyone in today's world is only interested in themselves, even for a measly £10.

£10 is £10, me refusing that refund wouldn't have changed how much of a joke the Amazon review system is, and my 3 or 5 stars didn't make a dent in their average, which had lots of similar reviews anyway. Yes I was exploiting a broken system, as were the suppliers, I don't feel guilty for it now. And I still use the gadget in question.

I did write my original review in all honesty, not expecting anything back from the company. 3 stars was fair enough for a cheap bit of tat that was usable if you could ignore the quirks. The money back was a nice offer, which they didn't have to do - it was good customer service in my opinion - so what if they get something out of it as well?