An online retailer, VIP Deals, has been allegedly caught paying customers for 5-star reviews on the Amazon Marketplace, causing concern at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the reliability of online reviews.

An online retailer, VIP Deals, has been allegedly caught paying customers for 5-star reviews on the Amazon Marketplace, causing concern at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the reliability of online reviews.

 
The company in question makes leather cases for the Kindle Fire, Amazon's popular rival to Apple's iPad tablet, and it allegedly offered a rebate to customers who gave it a 5-star review, effectively amounting to buying positive feedback.
 
As one can expect, this led to the Vipertek case receiving 310 of 335 5-star reviews, with most of the remainder at 4-stars. Some customers even admitted that they would have docked the product a star or two were it not for this offer.
 
The New York Times found that the products were bundled with a letter which offered a refund if they provided a review. The letter did not specifically ask for a 5-star review, but it hinted at it, and, of course, there are few people who would not give full marks for a free product.
 
 
It's understandable that the company would want 5-star reviews. After all, stores that operate on eBay often ask shoppers to contact them before posting any negative feedback, which could lower their overall rating and affect sales. The difference, however, is that those stores usually try to solve the customer's complaint rather than simply bribe their way to positive feedback.
 
As soon as Amazon was alerted to the practice, which is against its rules, it deleted all of the reviews. The product has since been listed as unavailable.
 
“Advertising disguised as editorial is an old problem, but it’s now presenting itself in different ways,” said Mary K. Engle, associate director for advertising practices at the FTC. “We’re very concerned.”
 
VIP Deals has denied the allegations.