Amazon files a groundbreaking lawsuit
In 1985, Senator Lloyd Bentsen coined the term “astroturfing” which is when companies or individuals mask their motives when putting it under the guise of a grassroots movement. While this term is most often associated with individuals that attempt to sway people towards a particular agenda, it has also been used to describe a company that pays people create interest in a product. One example of this is when the Quarter Pounder was released in Japan. McDonald’s paid their part-time employees to line up before midnight to create a buzz for the product.
Amazon is fighting back against astroturfing on its website. On Wednesday, April 8, Amazon filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court, California against three websites that purport to post reviews on Amazon for payment. Amazon alleges trademark infringement, false advertising and violations of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and other violations.
Why review legitimacy is so important
Many consumers rely on reviews to make purchases on Amazon, so they are an important element in the overall environment. Amazon does have mechanisms in place to catch false reviews, but apparently has decided to ask the courts for assistance in this growing problem.
It is unfair competition and undermines the trust of the Amazon customers. Amazon is not the first online company to sue review companies. In 2012, Yelp sued and won in New York when 19 companies were fined $350,000 in penalties for filing false reviews.
Defendant responds to the allegations
Mark Collins, who owns buyamazonreviews.com denies the claim and insists that providing honest and unbiased reviews for pay is not illegal. Collins states that his site is not connected to buyazonreviews.com which is owned by Jay Gentile. Gentile is named in the suit, as is his website and Collins’ website, but Collins is not named.
This is a lawsuit to watch. Amazon is not only asking the court to force the websites to cease their activities and to stop selling reviews, but it’s also seeking triple damage and attorney fees. Reviews are an important part of today’s websites, but they should be organic from real customers.