Amazon Product Review Guidelines – All You Need To Know

Amazon’s product review guidelines are strict and important… and if you’re not careful, they could easily bring down your business.

Playing loose with the Terms of Service around reviews is a dangerous game. It’s all too easy to have further reviews blocked on your product listing. Or even worse, your seller account could be suspended completely.

This post will help you learn Amazon’s policy inside and out, so you don’t put yourself at risk.

Seller account has been suspended - message from Amazon

Amazon Product Review Guidelines – In a Nutshell

You should understand the reasoning behind Amazon’s rules for product reviews, to ensure you comply with the same spirit they intend.

Amazon puts the customer first. They want 100% trust from anyone shopping on Amazon. That means when a customer reads a product review, they should have confidence that all the information is true, and they’re not going to be duped.

Unfortunately, due to increased abuse and manipulation by Amazon sellers, customers have less and less trust in online reviews.

This article from Cnet takes a dive into the problem of fake reviews, and how to spot them. It references the site Fakespot, which was created specifically to help people identify the legitimacy of online reviews.

Another article takes a deep dive into the black market of fake Amazon reviews, revealing just how widespread the issue of review manipulation is.

These examples highlight why Amazon takes such a hard line policing product reviews on their platform.

A little bit of doubt from a customer can easily be enough to dissuade them from making a purchase.

What does it mean for you? It means you need to encourage honest reviews, and that you have not done anything to consciously or unconsciously influence the reivewer’s opinion.

This is the gist of the Amazon product review policies. Honest, not manipulated or incentivized in any way.

Here are some of the most common things that are banned by Amazon’s review guidelines:

Incentivized reviews

The practice of incentivized reviews used to be a big deal. It was a semi-grey hat tactic that pretty much everyone was doing.

You would “incentivize” someone to post a review of your product, often by offering free or heavily discounted products. It didn’t necessarily have to be a positive review, although this was kind of implied.

Ever since a big update to Amazon’s review policy in 2016, incentivized reviews are now banned. Even if you specify you want an honest review, it’s still against terms to offer anything in return for someone to leave a review.

[Further Reading: A Brief History of Amazon Incentivized Reviews]

Family & Friends

A lot of sellers get family members, friends, or friends of friends to buy their products in order to get their first few reviews.

This seems like a great idea at first, but as mentioned above, it counts as an incentivized review. Therefore doing this is against Amazon’s Terms.

If you think that Amazon won’t notice, you might be surprised. They are extremely good at spotting cases like this, by matching IP addresses, shipping addresses, or anything that can link you and your buyers.

If you’re unsure whether or not Amazon will make a link between you and reviewer, err on the side of caution. Don’t take the risk that Amazon will shut you down for (in their opinion) shady reviewing practices.

Paying freelancers to write reviews

Freelancers for Amazon reviews

This should be obvious. It’s blatantly against Amazon’s guidelines to pay people to write reviews.

Even if you have people who say they will test your product and give an “honest” review, this will still fall under the umbrella of incentivized reviews.

Don’t do this.

Suggestive wording

The wording you use when asking for reviews can get you into trouble.

Amazon wants honest reviews. That means you can’t, in any way, try and influence or manipulate your reviews.

  • Ask for people to leave positive reviews
  • Ask customers to leave a review only if they are satisfied
  • Divert unhappy customers to another feedback mechanism

For example, this product insert would be in violation of TOS:

This may not be as serious as fully incentivized reviews, and probably won’t get you suspended. But with Amazon’s increasing willingness to shut off reviews on product listings, it’s probably not worth leaving it to chance. Always ask for honest reviews.

Asking a customer to change/remove their review

If a customer decides to take back their negative review after you follow up, that’s great! But this has to be treated as an added bonus.

Recent changes to Amazon’s review policies forbid sellers from asking customers to change or remove their review – no matter how nicely you ask.

Even if it was legal, it’s not a good idea in terms of your customer experience. How is a customer going to react if they keep getting asked to take down their review?

They are going to see your business in a very unprofessional light, and won’t buy from you again. Chances are they’ll share their experience with others, and they won’t buy from you either.

A bad review isn’t the end of the world. 100 bad reviews may be, but if you’re getting this many negative reviews, it probably comes down to the product itself.

[Further reading: How to Respond to Negative Reviews the Right Way]

Review groups

Review groups are one of the last vestiges left from the days of incentivized reviews.

Amazon review group Facebook

These groups connect sellers looking to get reviews, with customers looking for free or cheap products. Sellers offer free products and/or commission on the condition that a 5-star review is posted.

While they are less common now that incentivized reviews are illegal, they still exist. Using PayPal to skirt around Amazon, many buyers and sellers operate in these groups.

Participating in a group like this is a bad idea. It’s all too easy for Amazon to find out who is in the group, trace the reviews, and ban you.

We’ve heard stories about Amazon flagging reviewers who are part of review groups, and putting review blocks on products they review.

Deal groups or sites can be a good option for product launches, quickly liquidating inventory or getting a boost in keyword rankings.

Just watch out for people offering incentivized reviews in these groups. If so it might be best to stay away.

[Further Reading: Are Amazon Review Groups Still Alive?]

Amazon Review Guidelines October 2018 Update

There have been two major updates to Amazon’s product reviews TOS.

The first, in 2016, was when incentivized reviews were banned.

The most recent, in October 2018, added clarification to a lot of grey areas sellers had been playing around since the 2016 update.

This is the message Amazon sent to sellers, explaining the specifics of this update.

Violations to Customer Reviews policies include, but are not limited to, these actions:

A seller posts a review of their own product or their competitor’s product.

A seller offers a third party a financial reward, discount, free products, or other compensation in exchange for a review on their product or their competitor’s product. This includes using services that sell customer reviews, websites, or social media groups

A seller offers to provide a refund or reimbursement after the buyer writes a review (including reimbursement via a non-Amazon payment method). This could be done via buyer-seller messaging on Amazon or directly contacting customers or using 3rd party services, websites, or social media groups.

A seller uses a third-party service that offers free or discounted products tied to a review (for example, a review club that requires customers to register their Amazon public profile so that sellers can monitor their reviews).

A family member or employee of the seller posts a review of the seller’s product or a competitor’s product.

A seller asks a reviewer to change or remove their review. They might also offer a refund or other compensation to a reviewer in exchange for doing so.

A seller diverts negative reviews to be sent to them or to a different feedback mechanism while positive reviews are sent to Amazon.

A seller creates a variation relationship between products with the aim of manipulating reviews and boosting a product’s star rating via review aggregation.

A seller inserts a request for a positive Amazon review or an incentive in exchange for a review into product packaging or shipping box.

A seller uses a customer account to write or change a review on his or his competitor’s product.

Note: References to “seller” here includes all the seller’s employees and 3rd party partners.

Amazon states that any violations will be treated with a zero-tolerance policy. If they notice you are guilty of breaking any of these rules, they may:

Immediately (and permanently) suspend your seller account, and withhold funds.

Remove all the product reviews on a listing, and make it ineligible for future reviews.

Permanently delist the product.

Take legal action, which may include making your name and other details public.

Another point to note from the update:

Any infractions by your business partners, employees, or 3rd party agencies will result in enforcement actions, even if it happened without your knowledge or consent.

Key takeaways from the 2018 update

The October 2018 update, instead of introducing new rules, was more about clarifying many practices related to incentivized reviews.

The update makes mention of review groups, reimbursement after purchase and family members/employees as several specific cases that constitute review manipulation.

More importantly, Amazon clarified that you are not allowed to ask someone to change or remove their review, or divert unhappy customers to your own communication channels.

They other important point is that Amazon will take cases of review manipulation very seriously. To the point that it may not be easy to pick up the pieces and start selling on another channel if you’ve been found guilty of breaking Amazon’s rules.

Many sellers are not aware of the specifics of this update, and continue to use some of these tactics.

Amazon may not pick up on everything, but be aware that doing anything from the list above puts you at risk.

Amazon Product Review Policy & Guidelines: In Summary

It’s hard to follow the rules if you don’t even know the rules. And the consequences for breaking Amazon’s product review guidelines are harsh.

Punishments ranging from review blocks to suspensions to legal action can and have been handed down to sellers who break the rules, offering incentivized reviews or practicing review manipulation.

Amazon don’t mess around when it comes to consumer trust. So don’t expect a slap on the wrist if you break the rules.

[Further Reading: How to Get Reviews on Amazon (A Complete Guide)]