On Friday, September 17th, Amazon.com announced that it closed ~3000 online merchant accounts, connected to ~600 Chinese brands. This comes with the ramping up of its campaign against abusing the review system. Amazon has disclosed that the campaign is not targeted against China or any country, coming from Cindy Tai, Amazon’s vice president for Asia Global Selling. She additionally stated that the closures did not have a negative effect on the overall, holistic growth of Chinese online merchants.
Fake reviews for products can be brought about in a variety of ways, from paying for positive reviews to generating them with robots. On Chinese e-commerce platforms, the practice of paying for positive reviews is often ignored, but Amazon’s campaign that started in March has affected many Chinese merchants. According to the trade group Shenzhen Cross-Border E-commerce Association, this number is in the tens of thousands.
Amazon banned ‘incentivized reviews’ in 2016, but the recent campaign is on a new scale, stating that “Customers rely on the accuracy and authenticity of product reviews to make informed purchasing decisions and we have clear policies for both reviewers and selling partners that prohibit abuse of our community features… We suspend, ban, and take legal action against those who violate those policies, wherever they are in the world.” Amazon has taken action against some of the biggest Chinese brands on the website, including but not limited to Aukey, Mpow, and Shenzhen Youkeshu Technology Co. These actions have also made other international online retail platforms such as eBay and AliExpress more enticing to Chinese merchants.
While Aukey has been banned by Amazon, some items are still escaping the radar, with the Aukey earbuds still available for sale on the platform. This shows that Amazon is casting an immensely wide net with some gaps, but with the intent of catching those brands that incentivized more positive reviews. Reports from Shenzhen Youkeshu Technology, one of the banned brands, indicate that Amazon has frozen $20M+ of its assets, as one of Amazon’s largest Chinese retailers. Amazon continues its crusade against incentivized reviews and a somewhat more authentic platform through this.