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Amazon Will Warn You About Dubious Products (Instead of Taking Them Down)

It's a good idea, but will it fight counterfeit listings?

Amazon box on a home's doorstep
Corbin Davenport / Review Geek

Amazon has a serious problem with misleading listings, counterfeit items, and fake reviews. From an outside perspective, this problem seems easy to fix—just remove the bad listings! But the reality is a bit more complicated than you’d expect. So, Amazon is trying something new and unexpected.

As reported by The Information, Amazon is warning customers when a product is “frequently returned.” The warning appears under a product’s description and asks that the customer check product details and reviews.

This feature is only available to select users in the United States. Presumably, Amazon is testing its “frequently returned” label before a full rollout occurs. (The Review Geek team can’t see this label on Amazon listings yet. That said, The Information confirms that this label appears on listings for a Pro-Ject turntable and floral dress.)

We believe that this feature is a great idea. It should help customers avoid dubious products, including counterfeit items and outright scams (assuming that customers actually return scammy items, which isn’t always the case). More importantly, the “frequently returned” warning will encourage customers to look into an item before spending any money—those who shop for clothes or shoes on Amazon may see the biggest benefit, as clothing is frequently returned due to odd sizing and other unexpected surprises.

That said, this warning box won’t solve any problems for Amazon’s customers. The company needs to proactively fight misleading listings and counterfeit items. Back in January, we intentionally purchased a fake SSD from Amazon to highlight the company’s slow and unsatisfactory moderation. We also found that Amazon promotes some counterfeit listings, meaning that fake garbage often appears at the top of Amazon’s search results.

As a customer, the solution here seems pretty simple. Amazon should just remove fake listings from its website—most counterfeit listings are easy to spot, especially if the listing used to be for a completely different product. (Amazon allows sellers to rewrite their listings from head to toe. Scammers take advantage of this—they sell a genuine product, such as a pair of underwear, and convert the listing to a counterfeit item once they collect enough reviews.)

But Amazon is in a tough spot. The mechanisms utilized by scammers (rewriting listings, paid promotions, etc) are made to benefit genuine sellers. If Amazon were to remove these mechanisms, it could reduce sellers’ ability to use the platform and lower the quality of Amazon’s marketplace.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »