Amazon’s combined product reviews are deceiving shoppers

Amazon's review system needs fixing

Last month, the Burn-In reported on the tools consumers can use to identify fake Amazon reviews. However, it appears the massive e-commerce platform is misleading consumers about the quality of its products without the help of deceptive sellers.

The Guardian recently detailed the corporation’s practice of combining star ratings and product reviews for different versions of the same product in America and the U.K.

Consequently, Amazon shoppers have been misled into buying incorrect or inferior versions of products they wanted to buy. But the Silicon Valley giant’s review combining process buries those reviews among positive evaluations of different merchandise.

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Flat Out Deceptions and Lowered Expectations

The publication found the corporation commonly lists the same reviews and user rankings for different iterations of books, movies, and other items. For instance, the 1990 original and 2017 TV remake of “Flatliners” have the same ratings and reviews on Amazon UK. This practice not only creates confusion about movies of the same title, but it also promotes terrible iterations of well-regarded content.

As an example, the Guardian found a version of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” that is incorrectly listed as a four and a half star product. However, this Kindle edition of the classic novel is an abridged copy that apparently leaves out key content and features multiple syntax errors.

The publication found a similar problem with the collected works of Jane Austen. Amazon combined reviews for all of the legendary scribes’ work. Even worse, user ratings for respected editions of classic novels like “Emma” have been mixed with badly translated newer versions.

Amazon’s review bundling has also created confusion about contemporary works of literature. One user purchased a paperback edition of a Harry Potter book because reviews mentioned it contained several illustrations. However, they received a version of the book that featured no pictures.

British consumer organization Which? found 30 percent of Amazon UK shoppers have been deceived by grouped reviews.

Amazon Needs to do Better

As of 2017, Amazon is responsible for selling half the print books sold in the United States. Moreover, the e-commerce platform is the largest ebook retailer in the world and one of the biggest home video distributors. The firm’s dominance is due to its unparalleled selection and pricing. But the company’s subpar indexing is an embarrassment for the longtime market leader.

Moreover, combining user reviews and star ratings hurts consumers as well as content makers. Book publishers that put time and money into producing new iterations of classic novels shouldn’t have to compete with shoddy knockoff peddlers. Similarly, the retailer shouldn’t deprive filmmakers of their royalties because it indexed their films incorrectly.

Most importantly, it’s indefensible for Amazon to maintain a marketplace that consumers can’t trust. Sadly, there’s no indication the company has expended the minimal effort it would take to fix its bundled reviews problem.

If Amazon’s leadership isn’t careful, the e-commerce leader could find itself displaced by its many competitors. These companies could acquire some of the online giant’s market share without slashing prices or overloading on inventory. All they would need to do is sell people the things they actually want to buy.