Fakespot, an app that warns consumers of fake reviews, has been removed from Apple’s App Store following a takedown request from Amazon.
According to Amazon, a new update to Fakespot wrapped the retail platform’s website without permission, allowing users to login to Amazon through the app, which provided an overlay to highlight fake or bot-generated reviews.
However, Amazon claimed that this could have allowed Fakespot, in theory, to steal its customers’ data. The platform’s rules prohibit third-party apps from displaying its website within an app without permission.
In addition, the company claimed that the app mislabels reviews as fake, which harms sellers using Amazon’s platform. Fakespot also grades reviews using a different scale to Amazon’s reviews system
The app was removed on Friday July 16th without warning, according to Fakespot, and is currently no longer available for iPhones or iPads. The iOS app has been downloaded around 150,000 times.
Fakespot is still available on the Google Play Store for Android devices.
According to Apple: “This was a dispute over intellectual property rights initiated by Amazon on June 8 and within hours we ensured both parties were in contact with one another, explaining the issue and steps for the developer to take to keep their app on the store and giving them ample time to resolve the issue.
“On June 29, we again reached out to Fakespot weeks before removing their app from the App Store,” the company said in a statement.
However, Fakespot’s CEO Saoud Khalifah has claimed in interviews that Apple did not provide adequate warning or guidance to the company that the app would be taken down.
He added that Amazon provided no proof that Fakespot stole user data, with Apple taking down the app anyway.
“I’m shocked Apple decided to side with Amazon without any proof,” he told the Verge.
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Fake reviews have been an issue on Amazon for years. The company has repeated claims that it removes fake reviews wherever it can. However, the scale of the problem makes it difficult to combat.
Consumer group Which? warned that fake reviews for tech products were rife on Amazon back in 2019. Another Which? investigation from early this year found websites offering five-star reviews for as little as £5, including bulk rates.
Recently, an unprotected server was discovered that contained details on up to 250,000 people, including fake reviewers and the vendors who pay for them.
Scammers are frequently well-organised and act professionally, which can trick honest vendors into thinking they are not doing anything illegal, but simply using a free product trial service.
While the true scale of most illegal activities can only be guessed at, these all point to a widespread and persistent issue facing online retailers. Last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was investigating whether Amazon and Google taken insufficient action to protect shoppers from fake reviews, breaking consumer law.
It also comes at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has driven millions of people to shop online, driving up profits for companies like Amazon. The company saw its yearly review jump to $386 billion in 2020, an increase of 38%.