US Senators Investigate ‘Amazon’s Choice’ Badge
Democratic Senators, Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal have grown increasingly curious about how Amazon selects items to don the “Amazon’s Choice” badge after several reports caught fire. The pair believe that the badge might cause consumers to blindly trust products that turn out to be faulty or even dangerous. Now, the U.S. senators want answers.
“We are concerned that the badge is assigned in a arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews,” Menendez and Blumenthal said in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
The letter cited several sources, including an article written by Buzzfeed News reporter, Nicole Nguyen. She listed several examples of how the “Amazon’s Choice” mark established a level of trust in consumers who were left disappointed by misrepresented products. One “Amazon’s Choice” item was labeled as an “infant thermometer” yet the description from the manufacturer specifically said “not suitable for baby using at all,” in addition to other information listing the product’s unreliability. Yet somehow, the thermometer maintained a 3.6-star rating and received over 1,509 reviews.
The reason the badge appeared on the products in the first place, Nguyen says, is because of an algorithm based on customer reviews, price, and availability. An Amazon spokesperson reached out to Nguyen following the article, and said that both algorithms and humans are involved in the process, though they did not reveal to which degree.
The Buzzfeed News article went on to highlight a slew of products that received completely unrelated reviews. On a listing for a Mac Book Pro Charger (with an Amazon’s Choice badge, of course) one user wrote “Best pistachios anywhere. Perfectly Seasoned.” The 4.1-star rated charger also had reviews that described a lumbar support aid and a sewing machine. Amazon claims to take fraudulent reviews very seriously, and even threatens users with suspension and legal action if they violate the participation guidelines. But clearly, tons of fake reviews can very easily slip through the cracks.
“While, we recognize that Amazon has taken actions in the past to combat fraudulent reviews -- the problem persists -- and Amazon may be exacerbating the problem by actively promoting products with fraudulent reviews,” wrote the senators.
Menendez and Blumenthal asked Bezos completely define the process involved in the Amazon’s Choice program, and how the retailer combats fraudulent reviews. The Amazon CEO has until Sept. 16 to respond to their questions.