Earlier this year popular brands including Aukey, Mpow, RAVPower, TaoTronics, and Choetech started disappearing from Amazon, in what appeared to be a crackdown on review fraud.

Now Amazon has confirmed that’s exactly what happened… and it happened to a lot more merchants than we realized. According to news reports, in the past five months Amazon has closed about 3,000 merchant accounts representing about 600 different Chinese brands that were found to have violated Amazon’s policies, particularly those related to pay-for-play reviews.

For example, many of these companies made a habit of offering to pay customers to leave positive reviews… or to remove negative reviews.

Sometimes there’d be a card included in the box for whatever item you just purchased promising a refund or a gift card in exchange for a positive review. Other times the company would reach out to customers who left bad reviews, offering a refund or another product in exchange for removing the review.

Both of those practices are against rules Amazon has had in place since 2016, but which were not actively enforced until recently. I know I’ve gotten a card or two promising a perk for a positive Amazon review (I’ve purchased a couple of RAVPower power banks and Mpow earbuds over the years, but honestly can’t remember which came with an incentive card).

According to the South China Morning Post, “questionable practices like paying for positive reviews often go unchecked on Chinese e-commerce platforms,” which may help explain why companies who are used to doing business in China have continued to carry out those practices when selling to global audiences through Amazon.

In the meantime, some of the companies that have now been permanently banned from Amazon are apparently trying to expand their presence on other international marketplaces including eBay and AliExpress.

As for Amazon, the company tells The Verge that it “will continue to improve abuse detection and take enforcement against bad actors, including those that knowingly engage in multiple and repeated policy violations, including review abuse.” So it’s possible more merchants could be removed in the coming months.

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16 replies on “Amazon has removed goods from 600 Chinese merchants for review fraud”

  1. Jellycomb and MPOW have good products review fraud totally not needed

  2. I am a long-time Amazon customer, spending lots of money on Amazon. Somehow I recently got flagged as suspicious reviews and banned from reviewing. I’ve never had any relationship with any of the retailers, never accepted any reimbursement or incentives for writing a review… In fact, I’ve had offers for some incentives to remove a review but never did it. I tried contacting customer service about getting reinstated but just get a form email back. Do you know how I could get reinstated? I use reviews to help remind me what I thought of the product. In some cases, I’ve returned the product but then need to try to remember why I returned the product.

    1. Corporate Feudalist response:
      Thou fool! Thou art but one man before Amazon’s 1,300,000! What is the significance of thy life before all of Amazon’s? Canst thou claim to comprehend Amazon’s success? Couldst thou hope to repeat it? Hath thou the connections, the wealth, the importance, the competence, the circumstances? Verily thou dost not. For thou are but a resource, a worm in the soil of Amazon’s farm, and what worm dare speak out against the owner of the soil he lives to enrich!? The worm may be crushed by the tiller, or it may not; be it not the worms place to object, for thou shall surely be slain then, for it be not and never in thy power to do more than enrich the soil and bend and break when Amazon wills the world change.
      Thou shalt receive no answer, for thou art not worthy of more than a few entries in Amazon’s database.

      Sane response:
      Amazon doesn’t realistically have any forces compelling them to do that. If they, or an overly-trusted algorithm of theirs, think your reviews are impacting the bottom line too much they’ll just get rid of you. They know you’ll still buy from them, since local shops are being killed and there are many things that are much more difficult or impossible to find elsewhere, and there are so many dang reviews for any given product, too many for anyone to ever read all of, that no one else will notice yours are missing. None of this is good, but it would all take more action than anyone is capable of to stop.
      So, I’d expect that there really is no way but would like to be proven wrong.

  3. Why not just wipe the reviews? A lot of these are decent products, and Amazon still actively promote products using their own paid for review services.

  4. LOL. This is your daily reminder that Amazon is allowed to pay off reviewers through THEIR OWN Vine program by showering them with freebies. And you can be certain that they push their own favorite products through that system. Likewise, companies give out free review units IF they as sellers enroll through the Vine program. So Amazon isn’t any more in the right in this than the Chinese companies who is paying off reviewers. Amazon is guilty themselves because they want people using Vine and not their own review programs. And don’t forget that Amazon removed commenting on reviews and downvoting reviews. Why? They don’t want more knowledgeable users calling out their Vine experts when they write puff pieces.

  5. Too bad these sellers from Shenzhen will soon be back under a different seller name created by a random word generator. Some sellers’ names are along the lines of a keyboard smash.

  6. Well at least we still have Anker, which surprises me as I imagine they occassionally cheat the review system.

    1. I actually have experience with Anker USB cords. In my experience they are of excellent quality and I hope they can continue to sell on Amazon so I can easily find a replacement (or an upgrade) when I need it.

      As for the pay to review bit, I have had a few products from Chinese brands come with cards making that offer. I find it a bit sleazy but if it is common in China I am not surprised that these sellers don’t know that it is unacceptable in the US.

  7. I noticed this was happening a month or so ago… all the “Jelly Comb” wireless mice and keyboards disappeared overnight.

    It’s good that Amazon is finally bringing the hammer down on these. The bad part for customers is that plenty of these items were legitimately good for their price. They should have been able to have good reviews based on their own merits, or tried to improve products if customers seemed to find them lacking.

    Instead they tried to game the system. That’s on them.

    1. Oh yeah, I have one of those too. It was my first ergonomic mouse. Picked one up for like $15 or $20 before upgrading to the Logitech MX Ergo Vertical.

  8. Good news… but the fact is these sorts of things should have happened on Day One. You don’t need to be particularly smart to know that you need these rules, and you need enforcement of said rules, for fairness.

    This is simply Amazon taking advantage of the situation when they were smaller and not risking things or profit. And now trying to win some Sympathy/Popularity Points by doing the right thing, when they’re too big to be affected by the loss of said sellers. AliExpress still has this same problem, and you won’t like their solution.

    1. More likely they are preparing to release Amazon Basics clones of those products and are clearing the decks of competitors beforehand.

      In the case of Amazon a reverse Hanlon’s Razor applies: never ascribe to incompetence what can be better explained by rapacity.

      1. Sorry to disagree with you Kangal, but Fazal got it right in this case. Amazon is doing nothing noble here. They are wanting to promote Amazon Basics and Vine Voices. They are a dirty company to deal with.

        1. You should read how Amazon treats their warehouse employees and subcontractor delivery companies sometime. If half of what is said is true there may be problems for people that live in areas where they use them when they decide to go on strike and shut down delivery services.

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