Amazon is taking steps to make sure its customers can completely trust its reviews by cracking down on those that have been written in exchange for free or discounted products.
This change to Amazon's community guidelines comes just a few weeks after Reviewmeta published research that showed customers who received a product for free or at a discounted rate were much more likely to review it positively
The new guidelines say that customers will now be prohibited from "creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else."
Reviews you can trust
Under the old guidelines, customers were able to write reviews for products they had received for free or at a discount as long as they disclosed the fact. Now this won't be allowed at all unless it's done for books or through the Amazon Vine program, which identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products
This isn't the first step Amazon has taken to ensure reviews on the site are genuine, writing in a blog post that in the past year alone it has also introduced an algorithm that prioritised new, more helpful reviews; making the criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge more strict; and suspending, banning, or even suing those it has found to be attempting to manipulate the review system.
It's important for online retailers like Amazon to have review sections that their customers can trust since the customer is unable to physically engage with a product in any other way before purchase.
Although incentivized reviews that currently exist on the site won't be removed, stopping more appearing in the future should hopefully ensure that a product's star rating on Amazon is an honest reflection of its quality.