Amazon's Choice under fire amid widespread fraud in recommendations
Two senators are demanding that Amazon explain how it comes up with its well-known "Amazon Choice" label, a mark of distinction that earns certain products preferred placement with the retail platform.
In a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos, Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have asked the tech giant to explain how products get designated as Amazon's Choice, voicing fears that consumers might be getting hoodwinked into buying products that are not worthwhile due to fake reviews.
"We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews. While we recognize that Amazon has taken actions in the past to combat fraudulent reviews, the problem persists, and Amazon may be exacerbating the problem by actively promoting products with fraudulent reviews," the two senators, both Democrats, wrote.
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A number of recent reports have said that Amazon is flooded with thousands of fake reviews and the Federal Trade Commission has been looking into the matter as well.
The letter makes a range of demands, including that Amazon reveal exactly how products get recommended for the program, whether an algorithm is informing the company's decisions about the program, and whether actual humans review the products to make sure they are worthy of the special label.
The Seattle-based company, which debuted the Amazon Choice label in 2015, has until Sept. 16 to respond to lawmakers' questions. The description on the site says, "Amazon's Choice recommends highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately."
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As other news outlets have noted for years, it remains a mystery how a product earns the designation.
A spokesperson for Amazon gave Fox News the following statement via email on Tuesday:
“Amazon invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers. Even one inauthentic review is one too many. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban and take legal action on those who violate our policies."
The company uses a combination of teams of investigators and automated technology to prevent and detect inauthentic reviews, and to take action against the bad actors behind the abuse; the company estimates that 90 percent of inauthentic reviews are computer generated.
The spokesperson continued: "We work hard to enrich the shopping experience for our customers and selling partners with authentic reviews written by real customers. Customers can help by reporting any requests they get to manipulate reviews to customer service."