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Amazon questioned over “Amazon’s Choice” selection process amid fake reviews warning

US Senators have quizzed the online giant about how its recommendations are made

Retail giant Amazon has been questioned over the deployment of its “Amazon’s Choice” awards, which it gives to select products on the website.

Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal have written to the firm demanding to know more about the selection process, specifically whether decisions are made by its employees or whether algorithms are responsible for bestowing the award. The duo wrote that they were “concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews”.

The request for information comes amid concern that the “Amazon’s Choice” category could be vulnerable to manipulation by fake reviews, in turn leading customers to purchase subpar items on the platform. The proliferation of fake Amazon reviews has been a problem in recent months, with consumer watchdog Which? imploring Facebook to crack down on groups soliciting such behaviour.

A recent investigation from Buzzfeed News alleges that many products emblazoned with the “Amazon’s Choice” sticker turn out to be of poor quality in real life, fuelling rumours that the accolade is dished out by algorithms susceptible to false reviews on the platform.

As for the selling power of “Amazon’s Choice” awards, it’s predictably hefty; research done by OC&C Strategy Consultants revealed that products deemed “Amazon’s Choice” are three times more likely to sell than they otherwise would be – meaning the stickers carry a lot of weight. Concern as to whether the accolade is clouding consumers’ judgement, preventing them from making an informed decision, stems from this kind of commercial clout.

For Amazon’s part, it has until 16 August to respond to the request, with Mr Menedez telling Buzzfeed he wanted a “full and robust” answer. If the selection procedure proves to be inadequate, the Senators are hoping their demands will trigger a voluntary overhaul of the process. Failing that, he posited “we force it to change by some federal regulatory agency or by some regulation”.

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