FTC goes after marketer for buying fake Amazon reviews

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If you were thinking about buying fake Amazon reviews to try to boost sales of your product, you might want to consider another tactic.

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday announced its first-ever case against a marketer for doing just that. The defendants, Cure Encapsulations Inc. and its owner Naftula Jacobowitz, advertised and sold a weight-loss supplement on Amazon called "Quality Encapsulations Garcinia Cambogia Extract with HCA."

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that the defendants paid a website, amazonverifiedreviews.com, to create and post bogus reviews of their product on Amazon.com. Jacobowitz allegedly told the website's operator to make his product "stay a five star."

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"People rely on reviews when they're shopping online," FTC Consumer Protection Bureau Director Andrew Smith said in a statement. "When a company buys fake reviews to inflate its Amazon ratings, it hurts both shoppers and companies that play by the rules."

The FTC also claims the defendants made "false and unsubstantiated" claims on their Amazon product page. They, for instance, said the product "Literally BLOCKS FAT From Forming" and can help you lose weight fast.

As part of the settlement, the defendants wil have to notify Amazon that they paid for fake reviews, and identify each one they purchased. They'll also have to notify customers who bought the supplement, and are prohibited from making any weight-loss claims in the future without scientific evidence.

The FTC has also issued a $12.8 million fine, but the defendants will only have to pay $50,000 and "certain unpaid income tax obligations." If the FTC finds they misrepresented their financial condition, though, the rest will be due.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.