Amazon TOS Changes :: What is Fact and What is Fiction

Amazon TOS Changes :: What is Fact and What is Fiction


They changed what??? They are making us do what??? No!!! Really??? Who did you hear that from??? They are out to get rid of us!!! How can they do this??? This can’t be legal!!! I’m sure it is because of the …. Do you think that…….

Amazon TOS ChangesThere are currently so many rumors flying around about Amazon’s Customer Review Creation Guidelines. Even though they changed them almost two weeks ago, people are still talking about it and still don’t  understand what changed and how it affects them. I know it can be scary and very confusing at times. What do you believe? Who do you believe? Where do I go for information? Those are all questions that have gone through my mind so many times since I have become a Reviewer.

As if changes to the TOS weren’t enough, around that same timeframe, Amazon wiped another large group of Reviewers again. Many people have claimed that Amazon wiped their account unfairly after they secretly changed their Guidelines, enforcing rules that were not in place when their reviews were written. I won’t address that rumor in this post, but of course, I have some thoughts to share about it later this week….

I have even read where people are going to quit reviewing because Amazon is continually changing the rules and there are no guidelines for a Reviewer to follow. People are unfairly losing their accounts and no explanations are given. Some people think that  Amazon should be sued because they have treated the community so unfairly.

After I heard another rumor that Amazon rewrote the complete Customer Review Creation Guidelines, I knew I needed to read them for myself and see what had changed so drastically. I wanted to know what I should be concerned about the most. So I read them and reread them. Then read them again. To tell you the truth, after reading them I had no idea what people were so upset about. They seemed basically the same to me except for one point. The $5.00 point. We’ll get to the answer to that question, but let’s look at the old and new Guidelines themselves for a minute.

I couldn’t recall exactly what the Amazon’s Review Guidelines said previously, but I knew one place I could find out… What Amazon TOS Really Says, straight from the horse’s mouth.  Ani Ruhama wrote this article back in late January and copied the text exactly from Amazon’s website. Let’s look at this side by side comparison I made. I had decided not to depend on some of the graphics I saw last week where people had compiled a ‘TOS” from bits and pieces they remembered, points they had written down, and partial screenshots. Thank goodness, I didn’t use those for my comparison!

Customer Review Creation Guidelines
Then and Now


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The Promotional Review section and the Paid Reviews section are exactly the same between the two versions except for some formatting changes.

The first section has changed. 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. What does that mean and is it fair for Amazon to change the rules?

What this does not mean is that you can only write a review if you paid at least $5.00 for the product. What it does mean is that at some time during the life of your Amazon account, you must have spent $5.00 on their website.

  • This is lifetime (of your Amazon account) total of $5.00.
  • The $5.00 can not include what you paid for your Prime Subscription.
  • The $5.00, or any portion of it, can not come from the purchase of a product that was offered at a promotional discount.
  • The $5.00 has to be paid with a valid credit or debit card. You can’t use a gift card you purchased yourself, or one someone else gave to you, to meet this $5.00 minimum.

Am I sure about this? Yes!

I was sure that I understood the new stipulation but there are always people (like me) who want to see the proof with their own eyes. Do not assume anything with Amazon. I was just getting ready to write to them for clarification when I opened an email from Rachel Michelle, Director of Relations at Launchzon.com. They are the sister site to a new review website that I just joined, Ratezon.com. Rachel knew that the Sellers, as well as Reviewers, were concerned about all of the rumors swirling around so she contacted Amazon herself and had just received confirmation of what the “$5.00” stipulation actually means. Here is the actual email response she received from Amazon.

amazonconfimation

Click here if you would like to be able to read the text of the message in an easier format.

 

thank youThank you, Rachel, for sharing your clarification email with us. If there are any quality, experienced reviewers looking for a new site, Ratezon.com has recently launched and is now accepting applicants! Head on over and sign up if you are interested. They are really on top of TOS and want to make sure that Sellers and Reviewers have the support they need.

Now, on to the question as to if this is fair? I think so. Requiring you to spend $5.00 on their site is not that big of a deal. Anyone who just goes there to order things they are going to review at very little to no cost is missing out on a lot of really great deals and quality products. I love to review things and get great deals but our family also purchases a lot of other things on Amazon. Purchasing and then reviewing those things too is also a good way to keep your account well rounded. What is a well-rounded account? More on that next week…..

great dealsThere are several people you all may know, L.j. Redding among them, who regularly post great deals. She has a page on FB, Pelican Freak Frugal Finds that always has great deals, not to mention free eBooks! If you are reading this and have a page with great deals at Amazon, let me know and I will add it to the list.

$5.00 is nothing compared to the benefits we receive as Reviewers. It is not like you are giving them the money like a membership fee and you aren’t receiving anything in return. You can purchase whatever you want with it. There must be a very large number of people who write reviews and never even purchase anything themselves from the site or they would not have put this in place. What can you do if you are one of those people? Go spend some of your own money on Amazon!

Is it legal that Amazon changed their TOS?  They are not breaking any government or state rules and/or regulations by any of the changes they have made. It is their company and they make the rules. They create the rules, enforce the rules, and answer to no one. I have talked about this a lot before, they write their guidelines and policies to be very broad and vague so that they can interpret them how they want to. Once you submit your review you agree to give up all rights to the content, both written and media. You actually agree to abide by all of their TOS when you sign up for an account.

Did they do this so that they could wipe more Reviewers? I really doubt it. There have been a lot of changes lately, not just to Reviewers, but to Sellers and regular consumers also.  I am sure there are many changes that we are not even aware of yet. Let’s face it, they could have wiped every single reviewer if they wanted to without even having to change their TOS. That is not the reason they changed the Guidelines.

why do they get wipedThe review system began as a marketing ploy created so that they could jump ahead of their competition by having the first online store where customers contributed reviews, both good and bad, on a very large scale. It helped make Amazon who they are today. People knew they could go to Amazon and read reviews written by other people just like them.

However, both Sellers and Reviewers have taken advantage of the system. The fact that Amazon is purposely vague and doesn’t have enough real structure in their guidelines has come back to haunt them. That is the reason people get their accounts wiped. There are no real guidelines and with no real direction built in, the system has become flawed. Amazon’s reputation has suffered and Reviewers are not seen in the best light either.

So why did so many people just get wiped again? There are so many reasons why people get wiped and most of them will never know why, unless they knew they were doing something wrong and took the risk. I certainly feel sorry that so many people have lost all of their hard work and effort. I never want to minimalize that. It could happen to any of us.

I do have some other things I have heard about recently and things I read while researching this article that I will share more about later, but I am going off topic now. Those accounts being wiped do not have anything to do with the recent changes to Amazon’s Customer Review Creation Guidelines.

question marksWill all reviewers be wiped? Is the review system going to away? No. It would be an extremely disastrous business decision for them to wipe all reviews ever done, or even just the ones that were done by Reviewers. For the same reason, the system is not going to go away. Remember, the review system is what made Amazon into the largest online retailer. For them to have to publicly denounce and then do away with what made them who they are would be shooting themselves not only in the foot but In the head.

If Amazon has carte blanche to do whatever they want anyway, why bother to make any changes in the TOS at this point?  Changes in the Customer Review Creation Guidelines are actually a good sign. Amazon is moving forward with changes to the way Customer Reviews should be done. This seems to be part of the needed framework.

change is goodThe constant suspensions of updating rankings and blocking API access is a sure sign to me that they are working on their internal database structure which is what supports the algorithm they use to monitor transactions, especially transactions between Reviewers and Sellers. Until they have made all of the needed changes and are sure their database structure will support what they want to implement, they will probably go forward with minor changes like this instead of a major announcement and then implementation of how they plan to reinvent their once best-in-class system.



Amazon Customer Review Creation Guidelines TOS Changes :: What is Fact and What is Fiction
Most of what I have heard is FICTION (thankfully)
I hope I have cleared up the question about what the $5.00 stipulation means.

To keep your account as safe as possible, whatever you do, don’t forget to put your Disclosure in your review and don’t participate in Keyword Searching, Wishlisting, or other Special Seller Requests.

Do you have other questions about the recent changes?
What other things have you heard?
Do you have questions about the email from Amazon?

You know I always love to hear from other Reviewers or interested parties, please leave a comment letting me know what you think of the recent change, Amazon TOS in general, Customer Review Creation Guidelines, a question about reviewing, or anything else you would like to comment on.


Disclosure: I don’t pretend to know all of the answers and my opinion does have a tendency to come through very strongly in my posts, but I do state all of the facts that I know and make every effort possible to share with you the correct information. I am always very open to hearing opposing viewpoints. If we don’t share what we have learned with each other, none of us will ever make it as a Reviewer.

11 Responses »

  1. Thank you for the clarifications! One thing I don’t understand is why Amazon lets anyone write a review of a product they have not purchased at Amazon. If a seller wants to gift a product to a reviewer they can always give them a discount code. That is my preferred way to get products that I review. As a review reader, I want to know that the reviewer actually received the product through Amazon – I am so tired of the “fake” reviews skewing results – anyone who has bought anything over $5 can review anything they want? Still doesn’t seem this rule is tight enough to make the reviews credible and legitimate. Just sayin’.

    • Hi, Thanks for commenting!

      You brought up a very good point that I had not even thought about. You have been able in the past to review any product. My mind is always on the type of reviewers like we are that regularly receive items in exchange for our honest review. With the Verified Purchase tag, at least you can see if the person purchased the item on Amazon for at least approximately 50% of the listed purchase price. The 50% cutoff mark though is just an educated guess by some people on what seems to be making the cut, Amazon has not released any information on what actually constitutes a Verified Purchase. You can actually sort by Verified Purchase now when you read reviews for a product which some people may find helpful.

      I agree with you, the “fake” reviews are skewing results. Not only the fact that you can write a review on anything but the reviewers who are in this for the wrong reasons. Some write extremely short reviews that have no real benefit. Other people write great reviews, but their information isn’t accurate. I recently wrote a review on a product and when I read the other reviews you could tell they had not used it. They described something the product doesn’t even do. This was not just one or two reviewers who got it wrong, it was a lot of people on an expensive product. You also have the people who just copy and paste the information from the product description or even copy and paste in a review someone else wrote.

      There are a lot of different types of reviewers who have really compromised the system. Seller actions have also compromised it. One of my next articles goes more into some behind the scene problems that are really affecting reviewer accounts right now, even the honest reviewers.

      At least we know that Amazon is working on the issue now. How successful their solution will be, remains to be seen. I do know there is a group at Amazon working on it. A top executive inadvertently referred to it in an email and I know several reviewers who have been contacted by Amazon for some basic input.

      Consumers have to do their due diligence when reading reviews. Ignore the obviously fake reviews. If it is an expensive product or something you really care about making sure you purchase the best choice and you think the review is accurate, look at the reviewer’s profile to see the quality of their reviews overall. Do they give 5’s to almost every product? Is there an obvious pattern to their reviews like having basicially the same text, or even the exact text, on every review they have ever written for a certain type of product. Do they have a well rounded account? I have something planned about well rounded accounts next week so people can understand what I mean by that term. LOL, at some point I have to cut myself off for each article (or even response) because on some subjects I could go on forever 🙂

      I really appreciate you resonding to the post since you brought up a type of reviewer that I had not even considered in a very long time. I really appreciate it. I should make sure to include that type in my article about behind the scene problems. What do you think prompts people to write reviews on products they didn’t order on Amazon? I know I have done it for a few products because I needed to write a post for another company and if there was something about the product I really felt strongly about, I thought that people looking on Amazon for that product would benefit from reading it. I know that some people write reviews on products they didn’t buy on Amazon just to get their Amazon profile started and be able to get into any of the review groups or websites. Now I am wondering just how many reviews are written for products not bought on Amazon. I have a whole new post forming in my mind now! You have really got my brain thinking here, thanks!!!! You may be wishing by now that you didn’t comment, lol, since this has turned into a whole post within a post. 🙂 Your comment is so appropriate though and is greatly appreciated.

      Have a great day!
      Lynn Marie

    • Hi Rose,

      Thank you! It is always good to know that someone even read an article that I wrote. I know I can go through the server logs and see how many hits there were on a page and how long the people stayed on that page, but part of me isn’t ready to go there yet. As a blogger yourself, I am sure some of the same thoughts have occurred to you, especially when you just started. I write about several different things on my blog now so I am not even always sure how many of my subscribers are reading which content.

      One of my issues as a writer is knowing how long of an article is appropriate. I feel really passionate about some of these things so I can get carried away and write longer articles than people really want to read. There are also so many topics and outlines that I have and not enough time, or energy (spoons!) in the day.

      I appreciate you reading my blog, do you ever write reviews for products? All of your articles I have read so far on your blog are about disAbilities, which is what I really want to write about but still have so much trouble ‘coming out of the closet’ about concerning my own life challenges when it comes to my health. Everytime I go back to your blog and read a new post, so many thoughts and emotions come to mind. You do a fantastic job and are greatly appreciated.

      Take care and I will be in contact soon, hopefully sooner than later! Last week was a really rough week and there were no spoons to be found in this house!!!! Not even cheap disposable ones much less the strong titanium ones I need 🙂

      Hugs,
      Lynn Marie

      • You are welcome. It is difficult for me to see a lack of response. I wonder, “Why?” There is a great deal of time spent in the creation of a post. I try to keep my post no longer than 1,000 words and with short paragraphs. However, I do not see any correlation. The hardest for me is the lack of “likes” and when people choose to “unfollow.” Keep it up. You are serving a purpose.

        • I think more people read our posts than we think, and most posts will be relevant in the future too. I never look at my unfollowers. I do monitor my number of followers but I would be crushed if someone that I really liked or admired unfollowed me. I rarely unfollow anyone’s blog because I know it could hurt them too. Unless someone has gone off the deep end and their blog has turned into a nightmare, I just follow along and try and read the posts when I can. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. I came across this post while reading about the latest change. I wasn’t even aware that Amazon had changed the terms to $5 a month ago. I was never notified and as you said it was all done secretly.

    As to everything else…I am one of those whose account was wiped two weeks ago. I had gotten to 595 before ranking paused so long. There was a reason though. I spent hours composing my reviews. I never just copied the description. I tried each and every item to its fullest capacity and then often did video posts which cannot be biased when you see the item in person. I loved doing it. It was one of my joys as a very detail oriented oldest child. I was very careful to disclose and had thought I was very familiar with the terms backward and foreword. Although I have spent many hundreds of dollars at Amazon on a credit card– so that was not an issue.
    I am at a loss for why my account was wiped. I have sent in an appeal to their appeals dept but not heard anything back– don’t really expect to. I am mourning the loss of all my reviews the most. Hours and hours of work down the drain. And there have been several times recently I wanted to reference my detailed review on a product I don’t use often. Too bad. If only I could go back, I’d copy them to a word document first.

    • Hello Margaret,

      First of all, let me say that I am sorry that your account was wiped! I have had several friends who have lost their accounts lately and I know they were honest reviewers. That is a VERY HIGH ranking you had and it does sound like you were doing everything right. I have heard of a very few people getting their accounts reinstated, but not very many. There is a FB group for people who have lost their accounts, I could find that information for you if you think it would be helpful.

      I was just about to put a post on FB asking anyone if they have heard anything about why the accounts have been paused for so long. Rationally, I suspect the reasoning but since I have not been online a lot lately I don’t know all of the info that is making the rounds about it.

      I regularly back up my reviews using ARAT. It is a great tool developed by a husband of a reviewer to help her keep track of her reviews. I should do a post on that so that people have an easy way of downloading copies of their reviews. You said it has been 2 weeks? I have been able to find copies of reviews a few days after they have been wiped but not weeks afterwards. If you know your profile url still, I can try to look. It is easier for me to look that trying to explain all the background. 🙂

      Amazon doesn’t delete the reviews, they just move them to private access. Perhaps if you ask them for copies of your reviews at least, they may do that. Most of the time though people are just ignored.

      Do you have a blog that you review on? Once again, I am sorry that your account has been lost. It is hard to imagine the frustration you may be feeling. I have a good friend who wrote up a guest blog post after she was wiped, I should dig that up and get that published. Right after she gave it to me I had a ton of stuff come up and I never got it published.

      Let me know if I can do anything for you.
      Lynn Marie

      • Thanks for your quick reply!
        I would love the link for the Facebook group if you can easily get it.
        Any idea of what channels the folks went through who you know were reinstated? I don’t expect it but am curious. And wouldn’t expect Amazon to respond to me if I asked for my reviews (why would they?) but I may try that too.
        I had considered reviewing items in my blog– haven’t done that in a while there. And also considered for a while making my YouTube channel public. The written reviews would really help there– particularly for the items I never did a video review on.
        I would love it if you would check in my reviews. My profile is easy to access when I am at home– but am not right now. I think it is https://www.amazon.com/gp/profile/A2J6F7EK8T8RP6?ie=UTF8&ref_=ya_pdp_new
        Yes, i think it has been about two weeks. But might be a tad less. Don’t remember exactly. Please let me know if you find anything…
        Thank you so much for your efforts in my behalf.
        I do recommend that you write a post about the backup option you mentioned– even if it only a quick blurb. If it could only help someone else…
        I told my husband that I finally found a job I loved– too bad it didn’t pay. 😉 so it has been hard on me, but it does leave me more time in the evenings and saves our mailman trips to the front door!

        • Hi Margaret, I’m sorry, I couldn’t locate any copies of your reviews. I do hope you can find a new hobby that is as fulfilling. You can always go to reviewing on your blog too. With a ranking like that, you will still have a lot of credibility.
          The few people that were able to get their reviews reinstated were ones who had copies of all of their reviews and could prove that they had disclaimers on all of them and that they weren’t promotional in nature.
          I will have to look for the name of the FB group but will find it for you.
          Lynn Marie

  3. Pingback: Amazon TOS Changes :: Increase in Minimum Purchases to Write a Review, Again – A Treasure Chest of Serendipity

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