In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, Amazon reviews are often deeply biased because the product in question was given to a reviewer for free or at a discount. These handouts have a tendency to artificially inflate product ratings. But as of today, the company won’t be tolerating it any longer.
Paying for reviews outright has always been against the rules, and Amazon has gone so far as to sue sellers caught doing it. To get around the restrictions, companies often send free or discounted products to reviewers, which has been permitted so long as reviewers disclose that the transaction had taken place.
The inflated reviews have taken a toll on consumer trust, and so Amazon has finally decided to do something about it. The updated Amazon Community Guidelines includes the caveat:
“[C]ontent 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.”
The changes won’t apply to either the Amazon Vine program, or books. Still, the Community changes will hopefully promote more honest ratings for products, though, they won’t be retroactively enforced*—meaning it might be some time before ratings hit any sort of honesty equilibrium.
Even then, this hardly guarantees companies won’t find ways to either compensate reviewers for praise or write the reviews themselves. As is the case with content moderation on any platform this size, someone always finds a way around the rules.
*Correction 10/3/16 7:05pm ET: According to an Amazon representative, “Reviews that were received prior to this policy change are being retroactively removed if they are excessive or do not comply with the then policy.”