Continuing to battle paid reviews, Amazon has accused more than 1,100 individuals of offering to post positive write-ups of ebooks and other products, for fees of as little as $5 per critique.
"In many cases, the reviews posted are entirely fake, and the 'reviewer' has no knowledge whatsoever of the product or book being reviewed," Amazon says in a complaint filed on Friday in King County Superior Court in Washington. "Most defendants promise glowing reviews of products or books they have never seen, assuring 'high quality,' '5 star,' and 'awesome' reviews."
The lawsuit targets 1,114 users who advertise on Fiverr -- a site where freelancers can offer writing, design and other services for small fees. Fiverr itself is not named as a defendant; the company's policies prohibit its users from violating other businesses' terms of service.
Amazon, which conducted its own investigation, says that some Fiverr sellers don't even write the reviews that they post. Instead, they allegedly ask the company selling the product to provide the review.
For instance, Fiverr user "Rerina," who allegedly offers to post "five-star" reviews for $5 each, tells purchasers: “You know the your [sic] product better than me. So please provide your product review, it will be better.”
Amazon says that Rerina and the other Fiverr users are violating their contract with Amazon, which prohibits reviewers from receiving payment for their posts. The online retailer also alleges that the paid reviewers are violating a Washington consumer protection law.
The company, which doesn't yet know the real names of the Fiverr users, is seeking to unmask them. Amazon also is seeking an order prohibiting the users from continuing to sell reviews, and for monetary penalties -- including an order directing the reviewers to disgorge their profits.
This lawsuit comes seven months after the company filed suit against the operators of four sites (buyazonreviews.com, buyamazonreviews.com, bayreviews.net and buyreviewsnow.com) that allegedly sell fake reviews.
Amazon might be the largest company confronting fake reviews, but it's hardly the only one. Yelp also has sued three Web site operators who allegedly promise to help business owners improve their reviews. Court records reveal that Yelp and the Web site operators are meeting with a mediator in that case, which is pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.