Trusting random strangers on the internet is not something we normally do easily. But Amazon largely functions on the goodwill of its review community, which are theoretically able to separate the great deals from the awful knockoffs. That is, until incentivized reviews ruined the party for everyone.
Amazon appears to have finally recognized the problem caused by incentivized reviews, and the company says that going forwards, Amazon will not be allowing reviews where customers receive the product at a discount or for free.
Research from tiny outfit ReviewMeta has exposed the seedy underbelly of incentivized reviews on Amazon, where individuals receive products for cheap or free, in return for writing a review. In theory, those reviews could be good or bad; in practice, incentivized reviews tend to sing the praises of a product. It’s enough to boost a product from middle of the pack to top of a category.
So, going fowards, Amazon is going to ban all incentivized reviews, with one exception: Amazon’s own Amazon Vine program. That’s a company-run incentivized review program, but it has some safeguards to ensure the integrity of reviews. Amazon selects who will be able to review products, and mostly facilitates reviews for new or pre-order products that haven’t been on sale for very long yet. Amazon also controls how many Vine reviews are shown for a particular product.
Exactly how Amazon plans on controlling third-party incentivized reviews is unclear. Banning overt incentivized reviews may just lead to under-the-table deals, although Amazon has been militant (and successful) in controlling paid-for reviews in the past, mostly by suing websites that offer five-star reviews for cash.