Amazon has allowed people to receive free or discounted products in exchange for review for a long time. As of October 3, 2016, they have banned that practice, with the exception of their own Vine program. Simply put, they had concerns about the quality of reviews these giveaways were generating.
The exception here is books. Reviewers have long been able to receive free copies of books in exchange for a review, and Amazon will continue to allow that.
Paid reviews for anything have never been allowed, and of course this has not changed. Amazon has banned reviewers for posting paid reviews. This is another step Amazon is taking to try to keep the quality of posted reviews up.
What Does This Mean For Incentivized Reviewers
I know a number of people who have been doing incentivized reviews of products, and there are a number of websites that help reviewers find products they would be willing to try at a discount or free. These businesses have to change their rules – if a seller wants to offer a product free or cheap through them, they can no longer insist upon a review on Amazon.
This may change how easy it is to get such products through these websites – we’ll just have to wait and see who still takes a chance on offering their products in the hopes that a review will happen without requiring one.
The basic problem is that there was a feeling that incentivized reviews were biased – more likely to be positive than a regular review. Everyone knows that the businesses offering the discounted products want a positive review, and it’s easy for reviewers to feel that there’s some level of obligation to provide one. This was making product reviews on Amazon less trustworthy, a huge problem considering how many people use product reviews there to decide whether or not to buy an unfamiliar product.
Of course, if you can get chosen for the Vine program, you can still do reviews, but it’s not as easy to get into as those websites which all pretty much anyone to review products. Amazon has to pick you as a trusted reviewer.
It will be interesting to see if Amazon monitors reviews to watch for reviews posted by people who did receive the product at a discount, but no longer disclose because it’s against the rules. If the discounted purchase is done through Amazon, this would be very easy to track. It would be harder to determine if items were sent to reviewers through some other website. Of course, Amazon often labels verified purchases on reviews, so they can also tell if someone tends to review things they did not buy there.