Another day, another set of products disappeared from the Amazon website as the company continues to take actions against sellers that pay for positive user reviews. This time it looks like TaoTronics and Vava devices have been removed… which is unsurprising since they share the same parent company as RAVPower, whose products were also removed this week.

This is what you see if you enter the URL for a previously available TaoTronics Bluetooth headset

Keep in mind that this purge has nothing to do with product quality – some of these companies actually make pretty decent gear. The problem is rather than letting honest user reviews speak for themselves, these sellers have been bribing customers with cash and/or coupons in exchange for positive reviews. And that’s a violation of Amazon’s policies.

In other news Tomagotchi is back… this time as a wearable. A new electronic paper development platform has hit crowdfunding site Indiegogo. And Evan Blass has a peek at the LG phones that would have probably launched this year, you know, if LG hadn’t pulled the plug on its smartphone business.

Here’s a roundup of recent tech news from around the web.

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10 replies on “Lilbits: An ePaper dev board, a small(er) BlackBerry clone, and Amazon’s continued crackdown on pay-to-play reviews”

  1. TaoTronics is (was?) inordinately common in the Daily Deals posts on this site. Frequently enough that I’ve often wondered if there was something going on.

    1. A quick search shows that I out of the last 2,413 Daily Deals posts (I deleted some older ones at some point), I mentioned TaoTronics in 74 posts, compared with 168 mentions for RAVPower and 303 for Aukey. Mpow showed up 333 times, and Vava was only mentioned 4 times.

      1. Also, as mentioned at the top of all Daily Deals posts, many (but not all of the links) in these articles are affiliate links, which means Liliputing may receive a small commission if you purchase something after clicking one of those links. That, by and large, is how these posts pay for themselves.

  2. Not justifying the paid reviews, however, the pot is calling the kettle black. Meanwhile, Amazon pays to play showering thousands of free products on their top reviewers. They especially favor their AmazonBasics brand, which puts other brands at a disadvantage and incentivizes them to pay to play to keep pace with Amazon. And, by the way, many of Amazon’s top reviewers are well known to engage in pay to play programs from other companies to boost their rank in the roster. They are well known to interact in the Facebook groups and email subscriptions of pay-to-play programs. Vicious cycle and hypocrisy at work: both are not right, but Amazon is trying to monopolize and silence third-party competitors too.

    1. Yeah, I’m way past believing the reviews on Amazon. There is probably nothing they can do to make me think the product scores are real.

      1. Yeah, and it didn’t help one bit that they got rid of review comments recently. That was one useful feature that helped real people speak with real reviewers who left brutally honest reviews for follow-up or help or call fake reviewers on the carpet. It also didn’t help either that they removed review downvoting a number of years before that. Honestly, Amazon is slitting their own throats and they don’t even realize it. Yet they remove the few valuable things that made their review section a teeny bit salvageable. Without those, I can visit any old online store and at least get the same level or often better quality reviews.

          1. They don’t want to top reviewers who get Amazon Vine to get criticized is why. Many of their top reviewers write nonsensical fluff that isn’t at all informed or organic. It’s all pay to play and they just want “theirs”, not their competitors’ pay to play. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this two-faced approach leads to a class action suit sometime soon.


      2. I’ve tried to avoid using Amazon whenever possible, so I haven’t looked very closely at the game mechanics surrounding reviews (there are usually THOUSANDS! I don’t have time to read through all that) but having heard about this, I guess it’s safe to say you can only trust the negative reviews. But looking only at those is a miserable experience and you’ll always feel bad about about buying something (which maybe we all deserve, except the people who deserve it the most are the least likely to actually look though the negative reviews). Because there’s always lemons, so you have to try to see if there’s a high tendency for genuine fault with the products or if it’s mostly people not understanding them and it’s really hard to intuitively get a sense of how bad anything is.
        And who even knows, maybe some outfits have figured out ways to pay people to leave negative reviews on the competition.

        I don’t think there’s any practical solution to the review problem, and what things I could think of would be extremely different from what’s done now, have their own shares of ethical issues, and very costly to many parties to implement.

    2. Agreed. If they eliminate all the competition it will just leave no name brands and the reassuringly expensive but not quite as good Amazon Basics.
      What is really sad is that even big names like Logitech and Canon have Vine and Top 1000 reviews, which while clearly marked as fake still have pride of place.

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