Amazon is investigating claims that workers in China took bribes to help out third-party sellers on its commerce platform. And it may not be limited to China, with Amazon also conducting a similar investigation in the US.
That's according to The Wall Street Journal, which claims that third-party sellers are tapping up employees to delete negative reviews of products, pass on reviewers' email addresses for direct contact or providing sales data that could give them a competitive advantage over rivals.
The bribery claims centre on information that can help sellers stay ahead in the algorithm wars that could make them a fortune or break them.
As with Google searches, if you're not on the front page, you will struggle to be found. Making sure that you're targeting the right terms and doing so ahead of the competition is vital for third parties, making gaming the system a tempting shortcut.
It costs around $300 for an insider to take down a bad review, according to the WSJ, although they usually demand a "five-review minimum" for each transaction. The problem is "particularly pronounced" in China, but Amazon is looking to smoke out moles in the US as well.
"We have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action," the company said in a statement.
"We are conducting a thorough investigation of these claims."
It's not the first time that online reviews have been called into question - especially Amazon reviews, which it is claimed are rife with cheating.
However, it is the first time that it has been claimed that insiders are responsible for helping the cheats to 'game' the system.
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