The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Amazon is investigating its own employees for accepting bribes through intermediaries in a number of schemes.
What are the details?
According to the Journal, independent sellers on Amazon offer payments ranging from $80 to over $2,000 in order to have negative reviews scrubbed, restore banned merchant accounts, and obtain leaked information including reviewers' personal email addresses.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the investigations, and responded to the claims in a statement: "We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties.
"We have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them."
The internal probes are part of Amazon's continuous efforts to maintain the integrity of its coveted product rating system, while weeding out those engaged in fraudulent practices among the site's highly competitive independent sellers.
Two years ago, Amazon banned paid customer reviews to prevent the artificial inflation of product ratings. But according to The Washington Post — which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — "Amazon's ban has not cut down on paid reviews so much as pushed them into the shadows, say sellers and researchers."
Likewise, Amazon struggles with preventing the sale of counterfeit products on its site. Brand consultant James Thomson told the Journal in July, "The reality is this is a cat-and-mouse game. You have to find a way to remove more and more of the cheaters. As soon as [Amazon] closes one loophole, somebody else finds another loophole."
In 2015, Amazon sued more than 1,000 "John Doe" account holders for allegedly writing fake reviews for profit. Amazon spokesperson Julie Law told CNN at the time that the company utilizes "a number of mechanisms to detect and remove the small fraction of reviews that violate our guidelines."
Amazon claims that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate, but data collected from the Post earlier this year found that more than half of the reviews in four product categories were found to be "questionable."
The data came from the site ReviewMeta, which tracks suspicious Amazon reviews for consumers.
Site operator Tommy Noonan told the Post, "These days it is very hard to sell anything on Amazon if you play fairly. If you want your product to be competitive, you have to somehow manufacture reviews."