Amazon.com has announced a ban on incentivized reviews for free or discounted products unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.
Amazon has said the changes apply to all product categories with the exception of books. Here’s the announcement in full from the VP of Customer Experience, Chee Chew, which was published on Amazon’s website on 3 October 2016.
“Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions, and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. In just the past year, we’ve improved review ratings by introducing a machine-learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews; applying stricter criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge; and suspending, banning, or suing thousands of individuals for attempting to manipulate reviews.
Our community guidelines have always prohibited compensation for reviews, with an exception – reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they disclosed that fact. These so-called ‘incentivized reviews’ make up only a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of reviews on Amazon, and when done carefully, they can be helpful to customers by providing a foundation of reviews for new or less well-known products.
Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. We launched Vine several years ago to carefully facilitate these kinds of reviews and have been happy with the feedback from customers and vendors. 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. Vine has important controls in place and has proven to be especially valuable for getting early reviews on new products that have not yet been able to generate enough sales to have significant numbers of organic reviews. We also have ideas for how to continue to make Vine an even more useful program going forward. Details on that as we have them.
The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.”