US senators call Amazon's Choice label into question over opaque ratings

Amazon is facing questions from the highest levels of the US government over its ‘Choice’ product ratings, amid fears that the system is open to abuse.

In a written letter two US senators have sought clarification on whether the label is determined by people or algorithms amid concern that fake reviews can be used to subvert the system and lure consumers into purchasing substandard items.

Of particular concern are connections between the Choice line and Amazon Alexa, with anyone using their smart speaker to purchase a new product automatically receiving goods from the range.

In their letter senators, Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal wrote: “We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews.”

This follows a BuzzFeed investigation which found many Choice branded products to be of inferior quality or to have been subject to fake reviews.

Analysis by OC&C Strategy Consultants suggests that Choice branded items benefit to the tune of a 300% increase in sales, providing a strong incentive for sellers to do all that they can to attain the coveted badge.

Amazon has until 16 September to give its formal response but said it ‘worked hard’ to ensure reviews gave an accurate portrayal of its products.

A previous investigation by Which? found that fake Amazon reviews were giving unknown brands a significant SEO boost.

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