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US: Senators question Amazon’s product search process

 |  August 13, 2019

Lawmakers want to know how Amazon determines which products receive its “Amazon’s Choice” badge.

In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal expressed concern that the eCommerce giant could be leading consumers into buying “inferior” products.

Their comments come after a recent report showed the company often places the badge on defective or poor quality items.

“The badge may be misleading consumers into thinking the products that receive this distinction are the best available products, when in fact some of these products are of an inferior quality,” the senators said, according to CNBC.

Launched in 2015, Amazon’s Choice is a recommendation program that selects what the company describes as “highly rated, well-priced” products. But the senators want a “detailed explanation” on the selection process to find out how products actually qualify for the badge, including the algorithm used and whether employees review each item. In addition, they are requesting that Amazon reveal how they verify user reviews, and if any financial compensation is involved in the process.

In an emailed statement to CNBC, an Amazon spokesperson explained that the company “invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store” and has “clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners” that could result in suspensions and legal action if they are not followed.

This isn’t the first time Blumenthal has written to Bezos. In December, he sent a warning about the company’s policy of blocking third-party sellers from offering lower prices on rival sites, saying it could “stifle market competition.” Amazon removed that policy three months later.

In July, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. and Illinois Rep. Jan Shackowsky wanted the company to address the widespread “fraudulent and deceptive” review issue on its site, while last week a group led by Menendez asked Amazon to take a stricter stance on its policy of banning gun-related products.

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