In recent years there has been an influx of websites offering free products in exchange for reviews, we’ve seen them constantly in our newsfeeds (as Ads), discussed by our users and we’ve even posted a few of them ourselves on Facebook because for the reviewers it’s a great deal, they get a free or heavily discounted product in exchange for a review.
However, there has always been a medium to high positive bias in the reviews, which basically resulted in unfair reviews for the products and ultimately for other consumers paying full price it was misleading.
In the past, Amazon have prohibited any paid reviews but there was a loophole that allowed companies to offer free or heavily discounted products in exchange for reviews as long as reviewers clearly stated this affiliation with the company/brand etc.
Although the majority of brands offering products for reviews allowed you to be completely honest about the product in your review, the fact the product was often free subconsciously influenced the opinion of the reviewer & the brands knew this so would exploit it by sending more free products to the reviewers that would leave positive reviews.
A recent study of over 7 million Amazon products found that “reviews containing language that would indicate the reviewer received the item for free or at a discount in exchange for a review (incentivized reviews) on average rate the product .38 stars higher than reviews that did not contain this disclosure (non-incentivized reviews). ”
The above study from ReviewMeta also showed that those getting free or discounted products to review were 12 x less likely to leave a 1-star rating!
These reviewers were potentially making some good cash from it as well, as the study showed on average these sort of reviewers were averaging 232 reviews on their accounts, compare that to the average of 31 from a standard account like you or I may have and you can see the potential for tons of free stuff that could be sold on for a profit immediately or in the future.
Amazon have said that from now on their Vine system will be the only way users can get free products in exchange for review.
In the UK we’ve not had a clear message that the above has come into force, however, we expect this to happen within days.
Amazon will not be removing any reviews unless they’re excess or don’t comply with their prior policy, in other words most likely nothing will happen to some products. Amazon have made it clear (at least in the US) that anyone attempting to manipulate/influence reviews by linking reviews to discounted or free products will face legal action from today.