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Amazon UK and EU ban all incentivised reviews

By Chris Dawson November 22, 2016 - 9:42 pm

In September Amazon updated its policy for buyers who leave a review. Now Amazon in the UK and EU have also issued guidance updates basically banning incentivised reviews, including those posted in exchange for a free or discounted copy of the product.

Amazon’s UK and EU policy now says that you can’t do any of the following:

  • Provide a free or discounted product, gift card, discount, cash payment or other compensation in exchange for the review.
  • Provide or withhold free or discounted products or other benefits in the future based on whether the buyer writes a review.
  • Use a review service where reviewers’ continued membership depends on writing reviews.
  • Use a review service where you can rate buyers based on their reviews.
  • Use a review service where customers register their Amazon public profile so that you can monitor their reviews of your products.

What you can do is:

  • Offer discounts that are generally available to all Amazon customers, such as Lightning Deals.
  • Give out free products at trade shows, conventions or other similar venues where you are unable to monitor whether the recipients write a review or provide or withhold any benefits based on whether a review is written or the content of the review.

The above changes apply only to product categories other than books. Amazon say that they “Continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books“.

This looks like a pretty comprehensive banning of all forms of incentivised reviews. We know that reviews are valuable in attracting more customers to purchase your product. In the future it would appear that you’ll be limited to enticing genuine customers to leave reviews. If you can see any wiggle room in Amazon’s new UK and EU policy we’d love to hear from you.

  • James Riddles
    3 months ago

    If you’ve already got an existing relationship with a manufacturer, i.e you’ve reviewed product from them in the past and you’ve been happy with the product and they’ve been happy with your review could send you an item directly.

    If they send an item directly with the expectation that a review is not requested or required. you could review that item.

    Yes it won’t appear as a verified review and as long as its only a small group of people ( to avoid tripping amazons system as indicated on their site)that the item is sent to then it should appear.

    The reviewer would be limited to 5 per week.

    Obviously there’s a trust issue, but if you’ve worked with that manufacturer before. that shouldn’t be a problem

    • james
      3 months ago

      ” if you’ve worked with that manufacturer before…”
      then it’s not an honest review. you’re working, not consuming. you’re an employee. you’re being paid.

      this may be in the best interest of some manufacturer, of professional reviewers [employees]
      it is NOT in the interest of consumers, at all.

      honest reviews, from honest customers, or dont bother.

      if you want to be a professional reviewer, forward your CV to which? magazine, where they pay professional reviewers for professional reviews. Amazon reviews are supposed to be honest, unbiased, unrewarded, consumer reviews.

    • Jimmy Riddles
      3 months ago

      Seems you’ve gotten worked up over my use of “worked”. reviewed is more suited. As such it’s perfectly possible to provide an unbiased review.

    • james
      3 months ago

      well not just the word “worked”, the entire scenario suggests a employee relationship, a small group of people getting free stuff for saying nice things, not an impartial review. it’s a for-profit arrangement, even if the profit isnt directly financial.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      Again this the difference between a good and bad reviewer.

      I only review products that I will make use of. If I review a product that is bad for a manufacturer I’ll mark it appropriately.

      The rationale behind this is because it’s rubbish. It will warn potential buyers of the flaws and lead to purchases and returns and less likelihood of the supplier being flagged to amazon of providing a defective product.

      If I’m not offered another product by the manufacturer I don’t care. Other manufacturers will always contact me because they’ve seen the reviews I’ve produced and I’ll take them up on their offer or not. If it’s exactly the same product it pointless to review the same product again and again so I won’t bother. If it’s a similar type product that I can compare it gives me the opportunity to compare and contrast and provide more of an informed opinion.

      Once I’ve created a review for me it’s done. for me. Sometimes I’ll get positive likes from other customers. for providing insight. Sometimes it will be marked down by competitors. or other reviewers. I’ve learned long ago not to worry about things I can’t control. Amazon could have fixed this a while back to give a better indication of who likes or dislike a review but they didn’t bother.

      It’s perfectly possible to review an item discounted or free and remain objective.

    • james
      3 months ago

      so what you’re saying is – you’d be more than happy to receive the product, review it, AND THEN SEND THEM BACK IMMEDIATELY?
      and do the videos / reviews etc you speak of without being paid?
      no of course not.
      you’re not in it for the public good, you’re in it for your own good.

      you’re just trying to defend a system where you get paid (in kind) by saing you dont really get paid.

      “I only review products that I will make use of.”
      – Well i only accept wages i’ll actually spend.

      ” If I review a product that is bad for a manufacturer I’ll mark it appropriately.”
      – if you receive a pile of junk, the only appropriate review is “complete stinking pile of garbage”, or such like, but you would not write that, because you are not an impartial reviewer, you’re a paid employee with a reputation to uphold in order to maintain your paid employee status.

  • beachbum
    3 months ago

    We’ve used a review group once for a product launch, after seeing all our competitors get hundreds of reviews over night and shoot up the ranking. We now use on Amazon PPC to get sale & ranking traction on new products.

    However we are still members of the usual Amazon Review Facebook groups. Today we saw a post on one group saying the instead of giving discounts codes in exchange for reviews, the sellers should send money via Paypal to fund the purchase in exchange for a review

    And in the groups own words “If reviewers in this group mess about with sellers then they will be removed from the group”

    • james
      3 months ago

      perhaps they could offer a tiered system, the better the review the more you pay?
      like £5 for a 4-star and £10 for a 5-star?
      doesnt that sound fantastically honest all round.
      wonder why amazon want to do away with this kind of thing in the first place?

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      money via paypal is a complete no noi.. It is explcit in the rules that paid for reviews will be banned.

      It’s a huge risk as once amazon finds out the seller and reviewer will be bannded,

      And find out they will (honest) reviewers will report this to amazon.

      It’s simply not worth the risk as a seller.

  • Joe
    3 months ago

    This is great news. Over the last few months I’ve made a few purchases on Amazon and I’m sick of seeing ‘I received this free or at a heavily discounted price in exchange for my honest opinion’ etc. I don’t believe these people give unbiased reviews because of fear they’ll be removed from the scheme.

    I see it as a corrupt practice and I’m glad Amazon have finally acted on it.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      Amazon Could have done a lot of different things to weed out poor reviews.

      Unfortunately good reviewers have now been lumped together with bad reviewers who got free stuff on mass hgave a one line reivew and 10 line disclaimer.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      Unfortunatley good reviewers have been lumped in witht he bad who were after freebies, gave one line reviews and a 10 line disclaimer.

      Amazon could have found a better solution than this a long time ago.

  • 3 months ago

    I felt it was only a matter of time before this was introduced in UK/EU; Amazon seem determined to try and introduce an honest review system. I suspect more sellers will turn to Amazon feedback software to boost reviews and comply with Amazon’s Terms of Service.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      Nope.
      I find constant emails form suppliers asking for a review an annoyance. Those that do respond will give a short review ” great, does what it says on the tin”.

      There is no incentive for anyone to write a review, take pictures and videos. It takes time to create a good review that is useful to potential buyers. No one is going to spend the time and effort it takes to do that for zero reward.

    • DLG
      3 months ago

      There is no incentive for anyone to write a review, take pictures and videos. It takes time to create a good review that is useful to potential buyers. No one is going to spend the time and effort it takes to do that for zero reward.

      That is *exactly* why these bought-off “unbiased” reviews were so dishonest and untrustworthy. I am glad Amazon has got rid of them at long last. It has often stopped me buying and I daresay others too. Amazon is nothing without trust.

      As for people being able to spot a shill review, clearly they generally cannot because otherwise the shill-reviewers wouldn’t have been told to put in their disclaimer.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      You still don’t explain why anyone would go through the effort of creating a substantial review explaining the good point and bad points of a product.

      You’re telling me that a review that breaks down everything, take pictures from all angles, provides a video of use, explains the pros and cons put you off buying a product? Then why bother reading a review? Simply buy your product from the manufacturer’s description.

      Reviewers who were provided with a product free of charge or via a coupon had to do that for legal purposes. It’s a mystery why amazon just didn’t create an icon that denoted the same thing.

      Since you’re such an avid reader of reviews I guess you’ll be able to spot the products that were brought as amazon deals of the day that required no such disclaimer. Maybe you’ll now be able to spot the unverified purchases that were given away directly by suppliers against those purchased from others site or companies.

    • DLG
      3 months ago

      You still don’t explain why anyone would go through the effort of creating a substantial review explaining the good point and bad points of a product…

      Exactly. Hardly anyone will write a long review for free, unless they particularly like seeing their writing online. Genuine reviews tend to be only a few lines long. Genuine reviews can also be incredibly unhelpful, such as the classic Amazon “review” along the lines of, “As described. Arrived on time.” Or the even better Amazon product review, “Fast despatch. Haven’t used it yet.” O.M.G. That’s where the Unhelpful button comes in. I can see why companies give away freebies to try and get long reviews.

      You’re telling me that a review that breaks down everything, take pictures from all angles, provides a video of use, explains the pros and cons put you off buying a product..?

      Long and fulsome reviews sound great – until you get to the disclaimer which then negates what was written earlier. They are always too gushing. And yes, it is offputting.

      Reviewers who were provided with a product free of charge or via a coupon had to do that for legal purposes…

      Casual reviewers are only under an ethical obligation, not a legal one.

      Maybe you’ll now be able to spot the unverified purchases that were given away directly by suppliers against those purchased from others site or companies…

      Maybe. I’ll give a recent example. It just so happens my father was looking for a whetstone to sharpen a blade. We were browsing Amazon for whetstones and one particular one caught our eye because all the “verified” reviews were 5*. What an incredible whetstone, I thought. It must be brilliant. I read the reviews: all were posted within a two week period; all gave 5* and all, without exception, came out with the guff about being an honest review in exchange for a free product. Yeah, right. How incredible that those lucky reviewers were all randomly given a free item that turned out to be brilliant. What are the chances of that? We didn’t buy the whetstone.

      As other examples mentioned on this thread show, reviews can be subverted.

      Reviews are only as good as the knowledge and experience of the reviewer.

    • Stuart
      3 months ago

      Agreed. I was looking for a Christmas present for my son. The item I looked at looked good, and had lots of 5 star reviews. But they were all paid for reviews. I didn’t buy the product, because I didn’t trust the reviews. Instead I bought from a listing where most of the reviews were real – included negative reviews, but their feedback was useful and I was able to decide it was not relevant to me.

      When someone is rewarded for a review, their reviews cannot be trusted. And having to scroll through dozens and dozens of such reviews just makes me distrust the product.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      It doesn’t have to be a long review, pictures and videos which takes time and can help persuade a buyer to take it or leave it. The whole point that people who “genuinely” purchase a product don’t leave reviews that are helpful, beyond as you’ve stated a “great does what it says on the tin” A hundred of those may be useful for you. to make a decision. But for others, a review which has more substance is marginally more useful. Nor for the vast Majority of users do they encapsulate everything. It’s simply not possible and doesn’t read well. All the “honest” reviews have something different because people have different criteria when purchasing. Some want to know what’s inside the box, some don’t. Some want an unboxing video, some don’t. Some want to see it in action, some don’t. etc.etc..etc.

      If you read a great review that connects with you and details the things that you are looking and then gets to the end and thinks. ” well they got it for a coupon for it can’t be a genuine review” says more about your moral disposition then the reviewers.

      Casual reviewers are only under an ethical obligation, not a legal one.

      Again, this says more about your ethics than the reviewers. Since you’ve made a sweeping assessment of the ethics of all coupon reviewers.

      In regards to your whetstone example, would you have been so dismissive if it had been a deal of the day and within a week period people who had purchased it at a discounted rate en mass has given it 5 stars and said ” great does what it says on the tin”

      Let me give you some of my review examples.

      A lady emailed me directly asking my opinion on a camera as i had reviewed a couple. She didn’t have much money and was buying one for her son for Christmas. I told her which one, in my opinion, was best and the reasons why. My “expertise” exists because i had access to more than one and was able to give the pros and cons and why the one I had chosen was the best.

      A manufacture of over 100 luggage items sent me a bag. I said I’d delay the review until I used it on a trip which I did. I gave it a glowing review because it was a fantastic bag. It took time and effort to create the review picture and videos and the supplier said it was the best overall review of a bag they had. They offered me another one , but I declined as I wasn’t going on another trip.

      Two “Genuine” reviewers purchased the item and gave it 1 star. they thought it was too big to use and get through security. I pointed out that this wasn’t a review. they actually hadn’t used the item. One of them actually then did use the item, found it was as good as I had explained and upgraded his review to 4 stars. I didn’t have to do that., I had ” no skin in the game” but it was totally unfair on the supplier and I said so because of they couldn’t. Currently, 26/27 customers find my review useful. So useful that the product is now in the top 50 of a major subcategory. That is the power of a good review. Both suppliers and customers win. Amazon knows this. It generates sales and they are in the business of making money.

      I can already see the Vine system being subverted. If you have to maintain you ranking then once you’ve given a glowing review to a vine product you just wait until other manufacturers who don’t want o pay for vine contact you and send you a product directly. You give a glowing review get likes and maintain your standing. All that changes is you don’t get a verified purchased and that doesn’t matter as I’ve found unverified reviews at the top of an item review list because it’s the best one. Only, in this case, you don’t have to leave an “honest review” disclaimer as you can say you weren’t coerced into a leaving a review.. or you could say you got it from a brick and mortar store.

      Now by limiting the amount of free products that sellers can provide to get reviews all they have to do is stagger the process.

      Whilst this has gotten rid of the shill review clubs ( which is a good thing) It’s made it harder for people to differentiate between a coupon review and paid for review and now amazon gets more money for suppliers willing to use vine.

  • James
    3 months ago

    What are amazon going to do about the reviews that have already been gamed?

    In some of the private label categories I sell in the front page is littered with products that have 500-1000+ paid for reviews and 5*’s. Some of these listings have gained this many reviews in a matter of months.

    It will be almost impossible to compete with these, taking many many years to get that number of reviews on top of it being unlikely our products will get a perfect 5* as compared to these gamed reviews (where they mostly get 5* as a matter of course).

    I hope Amazon either remove them or severely penalise these listings.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      Well now I understand the source of your frustration.

      I guess easier to tarnish all your competitors as gaming the system when they’ve actually bothered to do their homework optimised their listing, paid to get the buy box, sourced a cheaper product.

      What of those starting off in your categories that take your sales? What sour grapes will you throw at them?

      Maybe you should concentrate on your own listings to see where the problem lies.

    • James
      3 months ago

      I have no issue with competition – in my category there are competitors much bigger than us and we welcome this – competition is healthy.

      However there are those that have littered the front page (on certain gifts etc) with bought for reviews . They are not UK companies, mostly US companies with deep pockets and the products they sell aren’t very good.

      Our products are cheaper and better quality – what we don’t have are hundreds of 5* reviews that have been bought.

      Our products do sell well and will continue to sell. However it will take much much longer to get those sort of reviews and buyers are being duped into buying inferior products.

      (btw I’m a different James from the other james in this thread). It’s a common “name” around here.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      If your products are cheaper and better quality then you’re doing something wrong. People aren’t being “duped” they’re not idiots. They can spot a shill review a mile away. People who have purchased your product have no incentive to spend the time it takes to provide an in-depth review with pictures and videos. It’s those things that sway opinion. Not quantity but quality.

    • James
      3 months ago

      You overestimate the intelligence of UK consumers.

      This isn’t a country of smart buyers. If you want smart buyers go to Asia, you won’t find them in the UK.

      That is not to say there are not smart buyers… it’s just that the culture here leads to very stupid purchase decisions. Rip off Britain exists for a reason

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      Its a good thing you didn’t go all Ratner to your customers on your email list. You wouldn’t have had anyone else to blame.

      As a supplier, you don’t have to have the leverage that bigger companies have or the ability to dish out hundreds of free products, nor for that matter paying to go on Vine.

      Find a good reviewer in your niche of products or competitor products who has in the past produced concise great reviews ( good or bad) with videos and pictures.

      Ask them if they would like to try out your product and wait to see if they put out a review.

      It will only cost you 3-5 items of stock and time. Time to research look and find the right reviewer.

      If your product is as superior as you think it is, it will boost your sales guaranteed legitimately.

  • Jamie
    3 months ago

    Unless I’m misinterpreting this then wouldn’t the Amazon Vine programme technically be in breach of their own policy?

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      No. You don’t have to review an item if you get it via vine.

      As a supplier, you pay amazon to take x amount of your stock and provide it to their vine reviewers.

      The reviewers have no obligation to provide a review, nor do they have to provide an in-depth review. So it works out if you have deep pockets.

      This scenario is now the same for suppliers who don’t do this via vine. They can provide products to reviewers but cannot explicitly ask for a review.

      Reviewers who do decide to review the item are limited to 5 per week and these will be “unverified reviews”

    • Jamie
      3 months ago

      What you say doesn’t mirror what Amazon say about their vine programme?

      “Once they are invited into the programme, to maintain their status as a Vine Voice, they must review all of the selected products within 30 days of receipt and continue to be among the reviewers with the highest ranks from Amazon to keep their status as a Vine member.”

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      My mistake, It seems they’ve recently changed that requirement, I presume in response to the overall change in reviews.

      Although now it seems reviewers are on the same treadmill, only this time, amazon gets paid.

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      Here’s how Vine works: Amazon – not the vendor or seller – identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products; we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product

      Tha was amazons stand on amazon.com and co.uk https://smile.amazon.com/p/feature/abpto3jt7fhb5oc

    • Jamie
      3 months ago

      Yes, I know how vine works, however that blog contradicts what the amazon vine help page states (link below) and it doesn’t stop the fact that it is still in essence an incentivised review since the reviewer is receiving a free product in exchange for the review.

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/vine/help

  • Jim
    3 months ago

    I welcome this policy – I don’t pay for reviews and allow my the ASIN’s to talk for themselves at their own rate. Without any “boosts” or “pushes” in reviews. It will allow only the best products to be elevated and cheap imports to go down in the search results and branded high quality products to go higher

    • James Riddles
      3 months ago

      No one pays for reviews. You’d be risking your account as a seller if you did.

      “It will allow only the best products to be elevated and cheap imports to go down in the search results ”

      I guess that marketing isn’t in your forte. Good luck with that betamax player.

  • James Riddles
    3 months ago

    @James Since I can’t reply to your response ( seems a limitation of the forum features.

    “you’re not in it for the public good, you’re in it for your own good.”

    ***At no point have I stated that I do not benefit with a product at a reduced price or free. You seem to be stuck in a recursive loop with cognitive dissonance about separating good and bad reviewers and the benefits and pitfalls of both. It also seems it’s beyond your reasoning to accept that a reviewer isn’t morally and ethically bound to give anything less than a five-star review. My what a black and white world you live in.

    – Well, I only accept wages I’ll actually spend.

    ***** This is nonsensical

    –”if you receive a pile of junk, the only appropriate review is “complete stinking pile of garbage”.

    ***** It’s ironic how you believe that only reviews should be independent of external influences and here you are telling people how they should mark their reviews.
    There are 5 stars and really markings can be subjective for each reviewer. If it’s completely unfit for purpose then in my opinion its a 1 star. If I give a product 5 stars and then months later provided with a product with new and improved features worthy of 5 stars am I bound to give the first product 4 stars? No of course not. I once gave a product 3 stars because one of the functions didn;t work properly but the point was it didn’t render the product unusable. I suggested in my review ways it could be improved. Months later the same manufacturer supplied me with a new product that had worked out the kinks and was worthy of 5 stars,

    That probably blew your minds as you operate in a binary fashion.
    Regardless. I think this conversation is at a close. It seems pointless to continue. I wish you well selling your trinkets as it seems you’re gonna need it.

    • james
      3 months ago

      “At no point have I stated that I do not benefit with a product at a reduced price or free.”
      – No, you’ve tried every way to say “I deserve free stuff” without actually saying it. You dont.

      “with cognitive dissonance about separating good and bad reviewers and the benefits and pitfalls of both.”
      – you’re a moron that seems to have watched too much westworld. I’m not trying to seperate bad reviewers, i’m saying you are one. black/white enough for ya?

      “– Well, I only accept wages I’ll actually spend.”
      ***** This is nonsensical
      – if you’re an idiot maybe. I dont accept payment in monopoly money, cos i cant spend it. you only accept payment in items you’ll use. the difference? nothing. you’re being paid to say nice things, then have plastered this page with BS excuses about how you’re not. it’s blatantly obvious to everyone here you are.

      “blah blah blah” is the rest of it.
      you’re paid to say nice things, many examples you just given of “i didnt slate it even though it deserved slating and so i got another free one later” = POINT PROVED.

      James Riddles, you help no-one but yourself, you are the kind of people Amazon are trying to get rid of. other people’s informed purchasing is not your primary concern, your own profit is. you’ve shown it over and again here. were it not for profit, you wouldnt be doing reviews. so dont. take the hint from Amazon and the rest of us.

  • glenn
    3 months ago

    we use feedbackfive , no free items or discounted , just a polite email 2 weeks after purchase asking for a product review if the buyer has time , we have had about 70 genuine reviews in 3 months on one product, not fast but the reviews seem to grow with the listing as it moves up the ranking to1st /2nd page for its catergory

  • Christian
    3 months ago

    is there a official link from Amazon where we can read the new guidelines?
    I mean on Amazon UK.

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