Amazon files John Doe lawsuit over fake reviews
December 29, 2015  //  By:   //  Consumer News  //  No Comment

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Lawsuit doesn’t slow freelancers who provide those fake reviews.

Retail giant Amazon has filed a John Doe lawsuit against 1,114 freelancers who solicit customers on the website Fiverrs.com. The suit was filed on Washington state court Oct. 16, 2015.

Before filing the lawsuit, Amazon conducted an undercover sting operation by “purchasing ‘reviews’ for products and communicating directly with some of the defendants,” the complaint states. The reviewers who were sued are those Amazon claims sold fake reviews for as little as $5.00 each.

The John Doe lawsuit was necessary because Fiverr freelances use pseudonyms. The company’s name is derived from the fact the jobs, referred to as gigs, cost $5.

Despite the lawsuit, the offer for $5 reviews doesn’t appear to have slowed down. A search for “reviews” produced hundreds of results. While many offered reviews for Amazon, one Fiverr freelancer visibly posted that she would not do them.

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For the consumer, it’s nearly impossible to tell a fake review from a legitimate one. Many of the freelancers on Fiverr request that the client write the review and they will post it. Some freelancers boast they have dozens of Amazon accounts with various IP addresses.

Those willing to pay for reviews aren’t always seeking a five-star rating. There are those who will pay for negative reviews to be posted against their competitors. For those looking to keep their hands clean in case legal action is taken that could reveal their identity, paid reviewers are the answer.

As the New York Times reported Dec. 15, in early November one business was hit with 200 one-star reviews, many posting in a matter of minutes.

As for the Amazon lawsuit, the company claims in court papers that “Most of the defendants offer positive or 5-star reviews for Amazon sellers’ products. Indeed, many encourage the Amazon seller to create the text for their own reviews.”

Amazon’s terms of use ban fake reviews, and it’s suing for breach of contract and violating Washington’s consumer protection laws.

At least one freelancer went to great lengths to make the paid review appear legitimate. “In at least one instance, the seller of a ‘Verified Review’ was willing to receive an empty envelop, not the product itself, simply to create a shipping record,” the lawsuit alleges.

This is the second lawsuit Amazon has filed over fake reviews.

The next step will likely be disclosure, and the court could require Fiverr to turn over the names and contact information for the 1,114 freelancers named in the suit.

Image: Flickr/Mike Mozart

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