The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday night that it filed its first case against the use of fake reviews to sell products online. The Commission said it will settle with defendant Cure Encapsulations Inc., a New York City-based company, and owner Naftula Jacobwitz, whom it accused of making false statements about a weight loss supplement and paying for a website. from third parties to post fake comments on Amazon.
Fake reviews are a constant nuisance to Amazon Buyers, despite algorithms designed to safeguard their review system, and the company have responded with a number of lawsuits against websites offering to post fake verified reviews.
According to the FTC complaint, Cure Encapsulations sold pills containing garcinia cambogia, a tropical fruit also called tuna berries that is sometimes used as a “natural” weight loss aid. The pills were called “Encapsulations Quality Garcinia Cambogia” and were sold only on Amazon. Jacobwitz paid for a website called www.amazonverifiedreviews.com to post favorable reviews in order to increase his rating.
On October 8, 2014, Jacobowitz emailed the site operator saying that he would pay a total of $ 1,000 for 30 reviews, three per day, with the goal of increasing his rating from 4.2 to 4.3, which he claimed was necessary to have sales. He also wrote that he wanted the product to “remain five-star.” Www.amazonverifiedreviews.com then published a series of fake five-star reviews praising the pills. The FTC said the reviews made false claims, including that the pills were a powerful appetite suppressant, caused weight loss of up to 20 pounds, and blocked the formation of new fat cells.
The proposed settlement includes a $ 12.8 million judgment, which will be suspended following the payment of $ 50,000 to the FTC and certain unpaid income tax obligations. The agreement also prohibits Cure Encapsulations and Jacobwitz from making weight loss, fat blocking, or disease treatment claims for dietary supplements, foods, or drugs, unless they have reliable scientific evidence from human clinical trials. They are also prohibited from making false statements about endorsements, including false reviews, and they must report to Amazon which reviews were false and send an email to customers who have purchased the pills to give them information about the FTC complaints.
In the press release, Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Office of Consumer Protection, said: “When a company buys fake reviews to inflate its Amazon ratings, it hurts both buyers and compliant companies. rules”.
In a statement to The Verge, an Amazon spokesperson said: “We welcome the FTC’s work in this area. Amazon invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know that customers value ideas and experiences. shared by other buyers. Even an inauthentic review is too much. “We have clear guidelines for participation for both reviewers and selling partners, and we suspend, prohibit, and take legal action against those who violate our policies.”