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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Amazon bans product reviews written in exchange for free stuff

By Angel Gonzalez Seattle Times

Amazon.com is prohibiting most reviews made in exchange for free or discounted products, part of a wider campaign to bolster consumer confidence in its rating system.

Sellers and brand owners have long used these so-called “incentivized” reviews as a way to get word out on their products, and until now they had been tolerated by Amazon as long as they were disclosed as such.

But in a post on the Amazon site Monday, Chee Chew, Amazon’s vice president of customer experience, wrote that the practice will no longer be tolerated, unless done through the Amazon Vine program.

That’s a program in which Amazon, not the third-party merchant of a product, chooses the reviewer. Amazon says it doesn’t reward positive star ratings, nor attempt to influence the review’s content in any way.

Books are also an exception, with merchants and publishers still allowed to send out advance copies of books.

The move highlights how customer reviews have become a major currency on Amazon’s site, as they are a big guide in purchasing decisions – and how the company endeavors to ensure that the reviews are trustworthy.

The company in the past year has applied a new algorithm that gives preference to “newer, more helpful” reviews. It has also sued more than 1,000 parties for allegedly offering fake reviews for sale, and last June for the first time filed arbitration claims against merchants it accuses of paying for favorable opinions of their products.

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