House Democrats press Bezos over Amazon's handling of fake product reviews

House Democrats press Bezos over Amazon's handling of fake product reviews
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A pair of House Democrats are raising questions about how Amazon polices its marketplace for fake product reviews and ratings, citing concerns the practice could hurt consumers and legitimate businesses.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost House Democratic chairman launches probe of e-cigarette makers Lawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyLawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps On The Money: House to vote on budget deal Thursday | US, China resuming trade talks next week | Mnuchin backs DOJ tech antitrust probe MORE (D-Ill.), who leads the committee’s consumer protection panel, sent a letter on Tuesday to Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Making space exploration cool again Sanders campaign to launch own 'newsletter with scoops' MORE asking about his company’s policies for cracking down on fake reviews.

“Amazon can and should do more to protect consumers from these deceptive practices and we would like to better understand what measures your company is taking to address this issue,” the two Democrats wrote.

The lawmakers argued fake reviews can deceive consumers into buying inferior or defective products.

They cited a study by the consumer group Which? that found widespread unverified reviews — meaning there was no evidence that the reviewer had purchased the product in question — were dominating some of the most popular products across a range of categories.

Those products include ones with the “Amazon’s Choice” label, which declares that they are “highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately."

Pallone and Schakowsky asked Bezos to explain how Amazon decides what products get the label and what oversight the company conducts on the products’ quality.

“Online reviews significantly affect consumers’ shopping decisions and it is important that Amazon proactively protect consumers from such misleading and harmful behavior,” they wrote.

“The use of the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ label on these products is of particular concern because your company’s website promotes these products to consumers as ‘highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately,' ” they wrote.

An Amazon spokesperson said in an email to The Hill that the company “invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews.”

“Even one inauthentic review is one too many,” the spokesperson added. “We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban, and take legal action on those who violate our policies.”

--This report was updated at 2:46 p.m.