Review Policy Update

Amazon Shopper Review Policy Update – August 2, 2016

Amazon Shopper Review Policy Update

Amazon has updated its review policy again, but this time, it’s for shoppers—not sellers. See the “Customer Review Guidelines” at http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201602680

Previous Version

You can view the previous version of the Customer Review Guidelines on the Archive.org Wayback Machine. It says:

Who may write a review?

To write a Customer Review, you must have used your account to purchase any item or service on Amazon (free digital content doesn’t qualify toward this requirement). We do not permit reviews of the same product from customers in the same household.”

The Current Version

The current version has changed to:

Who may write a review?

“To post a review, customers must spend at least $5.00 using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $5.00 minimum. Customers in the same household cannot submit a review for the same product.”

What Changed?

Note the specific change about using a valid credit or debit card. That is consistent with our previous analysis of the use of the term “Claim Code” in the Seller’s Terms of Service update. In that change, from almost a year ago, it was evident that Amazon was trying to prevent sellers from giving buyers pre-paid gift cards to buy their products; this change continues to reflect that sentiment by enforcing it on the buyer’s side as well.

What Does This Change Mean?

Much of the speculation we have heard in the past day has been about the sale price of products and whether or not a sale price below $5.00 qualifies a shopper to leave a review for a product they purchased. Some believe this means that if you sell a product for more than $5.00, and you offer a promotion that brings the price below $5.00, it will not be eligible for a review. The language in this context is ambiguous, and we do not believe this to be an accurate interpretation of the new policy when considered within the context of what was there before.

What It Actually Means

If you read the old text—and understand the heading—you realize this is stating what a shopper must do to be eligible to write reviews on Amazon. According to the previous policy, a shopper had to have an Amazon account with a valid credit or debit card, and they must have made a purchase on Amazon that was not free. With the update, a shopper now has to have an account with a valid credit or debit card, and they must have made an order for at least $5.00. Amazon is also excluding the purchase of the Amazon Prime membership fee, and it requires shoppers to spend at least $5.00—not just continually buying free products.  

Our Experiment

I tested this by creating a new Amazon account and then trying to leave a review for a product I purchased. Here’s the screen I got from Amazon when I attempted to review the product:

Amazon-product-review-tos

 

So can shoppers still leave reviews for products purchased below $5.00?

Yes. As long as they spend $5.00 or more since becoming an Amazon customer. Thousands of products sell on our site Snagshout for below $5.00 every day. Even after this change, Snagshout shoppers have not had any trouble reviewing products below $5.00.

Can I still offer discounted or free products in exchange for a review?

Yes. Later in the document, there is a section that talks about incentivized reviews. Amazon states that you can’t review products that you have a financial interest in or have been paid to review. The policy says:

“The sole exception to this rule is when a free or discounted copy of a physical product is provided to a customer up front. In this case, if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback.”

Cleary Amazon still allows the sale of free or discounted products to encourage reviews. It also still allows shoppers to review products they did not buy on Amazon—in these cases, Amazon has no idea what the purchase price of the product is. So it seems Amazon updated the requirements for a shopper to be eligible to write reviews on the platform. This makes a lot of sense because scammers were creating thousands of Amazon accounts and buying something for $1.00 or less. They then could create thousands of fake reviews. By adding a $5.00 minimum order, it becomes much more expensive to create fake accounts for the purpose of creating fake reviews.  

Amazon Loves Reviews

Reviews on Amazon are a huge part of why so many people love to shop on the platform. Amazon understands the importance of product reviews, which is why it is always trying to make the review platform better. This change is a good step to make it difficult for cheaters to make tons of fake accounts for publishing fake reviews. It seems clear that Amazon understands product reviews are important to selling a product online, which is why it has allowed merchants to offer free and discounted products in exchange for a review.

Platforms like Snagshout and Amazon’s own Vine program offer systems that Amazon sellers can leverage to encourage genuine reviews for new and existing products. Getting real, user generated and genuine content about a product is what makes Amazon so great. Amazon wants to encourage shoppers to write reviews while making sure they remain honest and transparent—which can be a fine line to walk.

Hopefully, this clarifies some of the confusion about the update. Stay tuned for the next post where we compare reviews from discounted products to organic reviews.

Learn More from Our Webinar Where We Further Discuss This Topic!

Watch the webinar replay on How to Generate Product Reviews and Stay Withing Amazon’s Terms of Service

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Brandon Checketts

Brandon is one of the co-founders and main data geek for Seller Labs. He started Seller Labs after finding no other tools that could provide the flexibility needed for his used-book business. He no longer sells online, but now guides Seller Labs as the lead innovator to make sure that our products remain on the cutting edge.

This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. This is only for checkouts that go through Amazon’s platform, correct? If so, what about reviews where people obtained products for free without going through Amazon?

    1. Shoppers can still review products for free that they did not buy on Amazon but no one can leave a review on Amazon without spending at least $5.00.

  2. This is still very unclear to me. Is this to stop people making fake accounts? It seems clear that Amazon is saying that less than a $5.00 purchase and you can’t leave a review. Beyond that I’m not getting what your saying Paul. If a buyer registers for a new account they must make a purchase for at least $5.00 before they can leave their 1st review? Once they have done that they can leave as many reviews for various products that they would like? In perpetuity? Question: What if I wanted to send a product (free) to a blogger to review, and they don’t have an account? So they set up an account, then go to leave a review. Will they be allowed?
    Thanks Paul!
    Grant

    1. I think this won’t work as long as they haven’t made qualifying purchase for $5 at least according to new review policy. If Prime membership and promotional discount do not qualify then would standard shipping which I believe exceeds $5 qualify? If yes, then I would just make product free for customer but ask him to pay shipping.

    2. This update was just to prevent people from creating spam accounts. You can still sell products below $5.00 and get reviews. It can be free or any other price. The only thing that changed was the a shopper has to have spent at least $5.00 on Amazon over the whole account in order to leave a review. That is not on one order but $5.00 dollar total. It use to be they just had to have a valid credit card. We have tested this with a new Amazon account and the is 100% the case. We have thousands of products snagged every day on Snagshout below $5.00 that are getting reviews just fine.

      1. When you say: “They are getting reviews just fine”, what do you mean? Are you saying that heavily discounted amazon products you are brokering to be bought by your audience at near zero prices are getting VERIFIED review or UNVERIFIED review status on amazon?

        1. It’s unclear how Amazon decides what a verified review is. We do see lot of products purchased for very low amounts not get the verified review badge. These reviews are still very helpful they still affect your total count, over rating and the sale helps improve sales rank and search position.

  3. If I give a free coupon code to someone in exchange for a review, do they have to say that they received the product for free in exchange for a review?

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