Amazon bans reviews tied to free or discounted products


Amazon has updated its community guidelines to no longer allow incentivized reviews. These are product reviews made by individuals who receive products for free or at a discount in exchange for writing a review. While manufacturers don’t always explicitly require a positive review, the nature of receiving a product for free creates bias towards the positive side. Amazon is not ending their Amazon Vine program, which lets manufacturers go through Amazon to distribute products to trusted reviewers, who never deal with the manufacturer directly.

Incentivised reviews have become a real problem on Amazon, to the point that you can’t necessarily trust the average review score of a product, even if it has hundreds of reviews. Sites like ReviewMeta, which try to detect unnatural paterns in reviews and filter out incentivised ones, have become popular lately to combat the issue.

I personally receive emails from manufacturers on a daily basis offering free products in exchange for reviews. Looking in my inbox, the most recent emial from a couple hours ago is for these heaphones, which as you can see, has a nearly perfect 5 star rating from 44 reviews that were mostly written within a month.

For the record, the only product I’ve ever received for free that has appeared on AFTVnews is the 1byone keyboard I reviewed a couple months ago. I made sure to fully disclose how I got the keyboard, as I will always do if I didn’t buy something myself.

It’s great to see Amazon cracking down on the shady practice of incentivised reviews. Unfortunately, they’ll probably never be able to detect and stop the problem completely, but hopefully making a public statement against the practice, like they have here, will thwart future participation from manufacturers and reviewers alike.

  1. Al says:

    This is perfect!!! No more BS reviews!!

    • Joe says:

      It just means the company selling the product and the reviewer would need to find another method to get around Amazon restriction.

  2. Wrecks says:

    Generally the most recent reviews are more honest than the ones found at the bottom of the product page.

  3. Christopher Loughrey says:

    I’m really happy to hear this as it infuriated me to see reviews from Free Vine reviewers who are biased in favour of the product because the company was kind enough to give them the product for free. It’s hard to criticise a company and its product when you didn’t have to pay for it and have high expectations for it. Companies give free products because they know it will make reviewers biased in favour of the products. I never truse what Vine Reviewers say about a product as more often than not they all contradict what verified purchasers say about the product.

    • Manabi says:

      Well I have bad news for you, Amazon’s not ending the Vine program. That’s still intact, so you’ll still have Vine reviews of free products. The difference is that the product manufacturer doesn’t send the products to Vine reviewers directly, Amazon distributes them. I believe Amazon picks the reviewers too. So the manufacturer doesn’t have as much influence over the review.

  4. Christopher Loughrey says:

    Okay, I read all of your article now. I think they need to scrap the vine program too as that’s also an incentivised review. Whenever someone gets something for free they don’t perceive or experience the product in the same way as they would if they spent their hard earned cash on it. You’re not going to notice all its shortcomings like you would if you dropped a 100 dollars on the product expecting it to do this or that but it did. If Amazon really wants to create a level playing field full of accuracy they would scrap the Vine program and only permit verified purchasers to review.

    • Jonathan Mattson says:

      Should it only be verified purchasers? I can argue that both ways. But what if I buy the product from another company, receive it as a gift, and/or I just have a strong opinion that the thing is a piece of junk.

      Of course the argument pro verified only is common sense. But I do love how they let you quickly filter the reviews to only verified purchases. I’ve never taken the time to notice if you do that filter, does the star rating also change?

      • Tony Ramirez says:

        It works with Vine but did not really work with honest review crap. At least now I can filter by verified purchases to hide that Vine troll crap.

  5. Joe D says:

    Now I feel like wasting an hour of my day one day clicking “No” on 100+ reviews saying they were not helpful because the reviewers got a discount on the product to give an “honest” review wasn’t in vain.

    Great move, Amazon.

  6. Tony Ramirez says:

    Sorry for the caps but I am tired of these fake five star reviews saying they got the product at a discount for there honest review. I got burned by five products that were junk. The worst was a lamp that broke after a month and a crappy PS4 remote which did not work in many apps and barely worked on disk playback.

    • Tony Ramirez says:

      Also forgot since I can’t edit my reply’s one of the junk products that people got for free nearly bricked my $400 PS4. After hooking up the junk switch all I got was a black no signal screen and the PS4 kept shutting off. Had to boot into recovery and hook it up to my TV to fix it.

  7. Tony Ramirez says:

    Also I agree about the Vine program should be scrapped. Sorry but I don’t believe when you get a $300 router for free and also the Vine shills if you read there other reviews the last 20 are all freebies from Vine. Sorry I don’t believe a word.

  8. granman says:

    It’s definitely a step in the right direction. But, of course, there are ways around any system and I’m like 99.99999% positive that the same companies that flood their reviews with discounted or free product (for that review) will continue to do so working around the system.

    I typically would avoid products where I saw ANY of these “…I got this product at a discount or free for my honest review…” So at least by seeing those I knew to stay away from the product. Hopefully it will still be easy to see these “bought” recommendations and enable us to avoid those products.

    But I doubt it.


  9. xnamkcor says:

    Is this strictly only of the “reason” for the incentive is stated as “for the review”? Is my review of my First gen Fire TV invalid because I got 50 USD off for subscribing to Sling TV?

  10. Liam says:

    Thank f for that! Just last night I was reading a very large, great review, multiple paragraphs.. pictures and all.. only to get to the bottom and see something like ‘disclaimer: I was sent this for free but I swear I’m not being biased!’ Waste of time.

    I tend to ignore the Amazon Vine ones as well. I always research quite a bit before I buy practically anything I haven’t bought before, reviews like that are annoying and misleading.

    Step in right direction but they’ve got to do more than this to stop misleading reviews, it’s way too easy to manipulate.

    • Tony Ramirez says:

      I agree. Vine needs to go too. I read some Vine reviews where every review they got it for free and not cheap stuff things that cost hundreds of dollars. They can make a small fortune selling what they don’t need and get all the cool stuff while we suckers have to use our hard earned money to get the same products. I vote Vine reviews down and even reported some that got everything for nothing.

  11. Mark says:

    I still can’t figure out how in the heck they were ‘chosen’ to be such benefactors of the ‘free for a honest review’, in the first place.

    • Mike says:

      Usually what happens is you buy the product and when you register it with the manufacturer they will offer you to join their program for discounted products. You then receive an email with a coupon code and link to the product on amazon. I can’t tell you how many different companies have offered such things. I even had one company who in the product packaging put a note saying if you favorably review this product we will offer you a full refund of price paid and 20% off all products for life.

      Vine reviews I find just as bad if not worse, but since amazon does it it’s ok.

  12. Tony Ramirez says:

    The “honest” fake reviews are still there. I hope Amazon purges them soon.

  13. John B says:

    Long overdue…

  14. jbrodack says:

    They definitely needed to do something about these fake reviews. It may not completely solve the problem but at least it’s a step to improve things.

  15. Amazon Customer says:

    This is great news. Every time I’m researching a product I’m unfamiliar with and come across on of those reviews I immediately disqualify that product. A 4.5 star rating means less than nothing to me when you’re giving away products. Plus I’m mad I didn’t get a free one :P

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