Amazon has finally banned those pesky ‘incentivized’ reviews

Amazon HQ
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock
Do you take any notice of reviewers’ comments when shopping on Amazon? How about the ones that come with the disclaimer, “I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest, unbiased review”?

Just weeks after the publication of research that suggested these so-called “incentivized” reviews warp the site’s rating system, the e-commerce giant has decided to ban them.

An incentivized review is when a seller offers an online shopper a product for free, or at a discount, in exchange for a write-up.

Research firm ReviewMeta recently examined around seven million product reviews posted on Amazon’s site and found, perhaps not surprisingly, that incentivized reviewers were more likely to give a higher rating than regular contributors.

“Consumers have growing distrust and even disdain for incentivised reviews, especially when it seems every single one is a glowing five-star review,” ReviewMeta said after analyzing its data.

While Amazon is already fighting against businesses that sell fake reviews to merchants, the company had until now allowed “honest and unbiased” incentivized reviews to appear on its site so long as no cash changed hands and the poster made clear the nature of the review.

Outlining the change in policy, the company wrote in its community guidelines: “Content 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 only exceptions are for books, and the Amazon Vine program where the company offers select customers the chance to share their thoughts on new products on the site or items that are about to be released.

Existing incentivized reviews will remain on the site, though are likely to be gradually removed if Amazon deems them extreme or inaccurate in any way.

Now that the new system is in place, hopefully the star ratings on Amazon’s site will, over time, start offering a fairer reflection of how genuine customers feel about items they’ve purchased, thereby increasing the integrity of a system that many online shoppers still show little trust in.

Smart Home

Amazon has an even dozen new smart devices. Here’s how to order

Amazon's hardware announcement meant a whole bunch of new Amazon Alexa gadgets. From a microwave to stereo equipment, here is the complete list of devices that were announced, as well as reviews for some.

These 30 Amazon Coupons can help you save on the things you need

Did you know there are thousands of Amazon Coupons and promo codes that you can take advantage of? We found coupons for everything from tech to everyday products. Find out what savings you've been missing out on.
Smart Home

Amazon Echo vs. Echo Plus: Which should you get?

If you're trying to choose between the Amazon Echo or the Echo Plus, then this guide is for you. It compares the two Alexa-enabled speakers in cost, size, looks, functionality, and more.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Google Slides now auto-transcribes verbal presentations for real-time captions

A new feature for the Google Slides presentation software uses a computer's built-in microphone to transcribe the words of a speaker in real time, displaying them for everyone to see.

Pixel 3, Home Hub, and Pixel Slate — our first look at all Google’s new devices

Google has taken the wraps off of a slew of new devices, including the Pixel 3 smartphones, Google Home Hub smart display, Google Pixel Slate tablet, and more. We were at the event, and took a ton of photos of all of Google's new products.

PayPal will soon let you withdraw cash at Walmart, but there’s a catch

PayPal has teamed up with Walmart to allow its account holders to withdraw and deposit cash at the store. The service launches at all Walmart stores across the U.S. in early November, but there's a catch.

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.

Here's how to download a YouTube video to watch offline later

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.

Carbuying can be exhausting: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.

Afraid that Bitcoin could be a bubble? Here's how to sell what you've got

If you're investing in cryptocurrencies, it's important to have your exit strategy in place if prices start to crash. If you've decided it's time to get out or just want to learn how to sell Bitcoins, here's how to get started.

Don't take your ISP's word for it: Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.

Your ‘Do Not Track’ tool might be helping websites track you, study says

New research from the "Do Not Track" features embedded in popular browsers are being ignored, opening up the possibility of consumers having their information targeted by specific ads based on their web histories and cookies.