Two years ago, I got scammed by a counterfeiter on Amazon. I left a review on the product warning others about my experience. Eventually, Amazon deleted my review and banned me from leaving reviews for “violating Community Guidelines.”
Has Amazon banned you for leaving a bad review? You probably think Amazon hasn’t—but are you sure? Amazon doesn’t even email you to let you know that they’ve banned you and deleted all your reviews. Amazon does it silently.
Update: An Amazon spokesperson sent us the following statement:
We know that millions of customers make informed buying decisions everyday using Customer Reviews, and we do not remove reviews based on star rating or sentiment. We have systems in place to protect our community and if an action was made in error, we will investigate and remedy the situation. We have looked into this case and reinstated the customer’s review privileges.
How do I know which bad review Amazon banned me for, you ask? Simple: I’ve only left a single review on Amazon.com.
In 2016, I ordered a cheap mini PC from MarsKing on Amazon. The PC shipped with a pirated Windows 10 license, which did not activate properly.
I left this review so other buyers would at least have some warning. If someone wants to struggle with Windows activation problems, that’s their choice—but I don’t.
At the time, MarsKing sent me a message through Amazon offering to sell me a new PC “with a legitimate [license]” for 50% off. I did not accept the offer, but I imagine MarsKing would have expected me to pull down the negative review if I did.
In October 2018, I was clicking around Amazon.com and noticed it had banned me from leaving reviews. When I clicked on the “Write Review” button, I saw a message saying I could not review products. As Amazon put it:
Sorry, we are unable to accept your review. Your are no longer permitted to review products on Amazon because you have violated our Community Guidelines.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how long I was banned from leaving reviews. That’s because Amazon never emailed me to let me know about this decision. I had to discover it myself while clicking around the website.
Was I banned from leaving reviews for a month, six months, or a year? I have no clue. You’ll never know you’re banned unless you try writing a review. I’ve probably been banned for a while, as all MarsKing products now appear removed from Amazon.
And, guess what: When you’re banned, all the reviews you’ve left are deleted from Amazon. That bad review I wrote vanished from the product page. What a coincidence!
The ban message contains no link to dispute this or learn why you were banned, either. You’re just supposed to see the message, get annoyed, and never try leaving a review on Amazon.com again.
A report from the Wall Street Journal recently found that some of Amazon’s employees have been caught deleting negative reviews in return for bribes. The problem is rampant in China, where MarsKing is located.
Now, I really can’t prove MarsKing bribed an Amazon employee to ban me. Perhaps MarsKing just put together a sob story about how I was lying and tricked a low-level Amazon employee into banning me without looking too closely.
But, either way, that’s pretty bad.
I contacted Amazon about this problem via the chat feature on October 24, 2018. I asked Amazon support to please tell me how I had violated the Community Guidelines.
I was bounced around between a few departments before I ended up with a “specialist” who sent some information over to Amazon’s “Review Team.” Two days later, I received an email telling me I was no longer banned and my review had been restored:
We have reviewed this situation and have restored your reviews and reviewing privileges to our site. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
That’s it. That’s all the information I’m getting from Amazon. Exactly why was I banned in the first place? Who knows—Amazon won’t tell me. But everything is fine now, so just move along!
Update: To Amazon’s credit, Amazon did unban me before this article was published. So it wasn’t the public attention that convinced Amazon to change its mind.
How many other people have been banned from leaving reviews on Amazon.com, just for leaving an accurate review of a fraudulent product? How many people have had their reviews deleted without any notice?
I have no clue. But I’m probably not the only one who’s been banned for speaking the truth about a product they ordered.
Amazon needs to be more transparent. At a minimum, Amazon should notify you when you’ve been banned so you can dispute it. Amazon’s current system makes it easy for sneaky companies to silently get rid of bad reviews. And that’s not good.
Image Credit: Eric Broder Van Dyke/Shutterstock.com.