Amazon Bans Incentivized Reviews – Companies Say Review Anyway

Amazon banned incentivized reviews on October 3, stating that incentivized reviews are prohibited from anyone who is not an Amazon Vine member.

In the past, sellers would offer Amazon members free or discounted items in exchange for a review of the product. The reviewers would then write the review and leave a disclaimer saying something like “I received this item for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.”

The Inquisitr reported that starting Monday, Amazon banned incentivized reviews unless Amazon has coordinated them through the Vine program.

Around this time last year, CNN Money reported that Amazon was in the midst of lawsuits against review sellers to fight fake reviews. Most of these reviewers were selling fake reviews through the popular website Fiverr. These “reviewers” would accept empty packages in order to leave a “verified” review on Amazon’s website.

Ever since that time, Amazon users have become more and more skeptical of any reviews with the disclaimer. Many have spoken out against it saying that they will move away from products if they spot even one review like this on the page. All of this led to Amazon banning incentivized reviews this past Monday.

BRIESELANG, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 04: A worker prepares packages for delivery at an Amazon warehouse on September 4, 2014 in Brieselang, Germany. Germany is online retailer Amazon's second largest market after the USA. Amazon is currently in a standoff with several book publishers over sales conditions and prices for e-books, and hundreds of authors in the US and Europe have written letters in support of the publishers. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Amazon posted a blog about the topic and updated their community guidelines to reflect the immediate change. Here is what it says:

“In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, content and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including:

Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.

Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.”

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This was written to be the final word on the banned incentivized reviews, but it didn’t seem to happen that way. Several websites that are known to facilitate incentivized reviews between sellers and buyers responded to the news basically telling their reviewers to review anyway – and that no disclaimer should be left.

One of those sites was Dollar Deal Reviews. They sent out emails to their users and updated their help page to read, “3rd party review sites (such as Dollar Deal Reviews), can no longer require their users to provide reviews (….) You can absolutely review the products you receive if you’d like, but you are under no obligation to do so.”

It goes on to read,

“If you decide to write a review, you are not to include a disclosure as these products are not being provided by you in exchange for your review. Your reviews (while appreciated) are not mandated. Therefor(e), no disclosure is to be included.”

Another site that sent out a similar message was Amazon Review Trader (ART). The email subject line was actually “Exciting updates to ART: Review only when you want to”.

You can see the corresponding blog post here. It says “you are not required to leave a review for any products you currently have from ART, and you are not required to leave reviews for any products you purchase from ART moving forward.” Then it goes on to say,

“Of course, you can leave a review if you choose to (…) You won’t be breaking any rules by choosing to leave reviews on your products.”

The problem is that these sites (and private Amazon sellers) are taking this to mean that incentivized reviews can continue – they just aren’t allowed to require or ask for reviews.

Review Kick reports in a recent blog that there is an FAQ inside of Amazon’s Seller Central that tells sellers they can still offer discounts for their products, but it can’t be in exchange for a review.

“Based off of this, it is our understanding that purchasing a product using a coupon that was received through Review Kick or anywhere else is still OK, as long as you do not request, require or exchange it for a review.”

Review Kick has this correct – discounted products can’t be exchanged for reviews based on Amazon’s new TOS. This means that if you receive a discounted or free product, you can’t leave a review on it or you will be violating Amazon’s incentivized review ban.

Review Kick hasn’t stated what they will be doing with reviews going forward, but they noted that offering discounts on products would still be beneficial to sellers (even without reviews) because it will lead to an organic increase in sales, which helps their products appear higher in Amazon’s listings.

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(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

For both reviewers and sellers, this conflicting information has everyone confused. The question is – what, if anything, does Amazon have to say about the incentive review ban? In order to help with the confusion, I’ve reached out to Amazon and asked for clarification.

I received an email back from Angie, a representative at Amazon, stating “if we determine that anyone is attempting to manipulate reviews by tying reviews to discounted products, we will take action against them.”

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Email from Amazon Representative Angie Newman

There you have it. Right from the source. Angie from Amazon has confirmed that Amazon has, in fact, banned incentivized reviews and they are serious about it. Users on websites that facilitate Amazon reviews for deals and discounts should be aware that their Amazon reviewer account could be in jeopardy (and they could face legal proceedings) if they continue to leave reviews for discounted/free products.

What do you think of Amazon’s decision to ban incentivized reviews? Are those websites that continue to move forward with reviews and discounts violating Amazon’s policy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]