Amazon suspends Chinese merchants for fake reviews


In recent months, Amazon has been shutting down numerous Chinese e-commerce accounts for non-compliant operations. Cindy Tai, vice president of Amazon global and head of Amazon global store Asia Pacific region, confirmed at a recent event in Hangzhou that during the past six months they had suspended the sales rights of 600 Chinese brands affecting nearly 3,000 merchant accounts, including some best-selling brands.

According to the Shenzhen Cross-Border E-Commerce Association, these unilateral sanctions caused an estimated loss of more than 100 billion yuan (over $15 billion) to China’s online retail industry.

Deep Discounts for Fake Reviews

Robert and Mandy Liu, a couple currently residing in Los Angeles, have been running their Amazon store for two years achieving revenues of over $1 million dollars. When interviewed by The Epoch Times, they said Amazon was blocking the accounts of Chinese sellers for repeatedly falsifying product reviews. This lapse in integrity was a serious violation of Amazon’s policies.

Robert said that a high volume of Chinese merchants had joined the Amazon platform in recent years and now represent over 50 percent of all sellers. Along with this growth came a corresponding increase in policy violations, in response to which Amazon stepped up its policing efforts to rectify violations on its platform.

Based on his experience, Robert estimated that for every 100 to 120 purchases on Amazon, one buyer might submit a review, either good or bad. Apparently, Chinese merchants created ways to increase their good reviews.

Amazon said that in 2020, they “stopped more than 200 million suspected fake reviews before they were ever seen by a customer.” However, Amazon found that its automated monitoring system was incapable of catching merchants violating its rules by adding product inserts and gift cards in exchange for favorable reviews, or promising discounts to social media groups.

Robert and Mandy said companies were creating groups on Chinese social media site WeChat that gave away products almost for free in exchange for good reviews. Some were accumulating false reviews by advertising with phrases such as “free products with code scanning.”

The couple had also been added to similar WeChat groups by friends and found that these groups would constantly launch “discount” campaigns on products with prices ranging from tens to hundreds of dollars. Group members were encouraged to shop on Amazon, and providing five-star reviews with screenshot confirmation could potentially retrieve 90 to 100 percent of the original purchase price. Boosting the popularity of items in this manner was a violation of Amazon’s rules.

Mandy shared her experience with this type of group promotion. To understand the whole process, she specifically bought an air fryer that the group promoted with a “special offer.” But after using it and feeling it needed improvement and did not deserve a five-star rating, she did not complete the entire process. From her point of view, the people who took money for good ratings are selling their conscience and character short.

Robert said he felt the same as Mandy, that offering appealing discounts for false reviews was a form of counterfeiting, and Amazon was justified in suspending repeat offenders to correct this bad trend.

Economist Hengging Li, director of the “Information and Strategy Institute” in Maryland, believes the scale of the Amazon merchant account closures and strength of its penalties is noteworthy.

“Every account closed by Amazon is a loss of good revenue each year,” Hengging told The Epoch Times. “Billions in sales, but Amazon still closed these accounts. They do so because they believe misleading consumers will negatively affect their reputation, which is more important to Amazon than short-term sales.”

Hengqing said online shoppers tend to avoid writing reviews because it takes up their time, and this lack of data became a major issue for sellers hoping to grow their businesses. To compensate, sellers began offering money in exchange for ratings. This was spotted by Amazon, prompting its issuance of repeated warnings.

“Amazon asked these merchants to operate their business in accordance with international practice and in a way that protects the basic rights of consumers, but these merchants just didn’t listen,” he said. “So this time, Amazon has made up its mind to take down the products of the non-compliant stores and cancel their accounts. The most important issue here is that the good reviews obtained by these sellers through cheating are not a true reflection of the price, quality, and service of the products. It is a deceptive means to mislead consumers, which Amazon will not tolerate.”