Since 2015, Amazon has been actively trying to stomp out scammers exploiting authors. As I first reported in 2015, foremost among these were fake reviews, but a couple of months ago it upped the ante by filing arbitration complaints against five individuals who it says offered services to KDP author and publishers aimed at helping them manipulate the reading platform for financial gain. Amazon is demanding a combination of injunctive relief, account termination and, in some cases, triple damages.
As Publishers Weekly reports, Amazon alleges that five people used a number of prohibited strategies to manipulate customers reviews and worked to inflate sales and royalties. Amazon essentially charges that a handful of individuals worked to create fake reviews for their books and others’ in addition to attempts to manipulate Amazon systems that count book sales and the royalties paid to authors via its subscription reading service.
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Named in the complaint is Nilmer Rubio, a Philippino who Amazon says attempted to manipulate Kindle Unlimited pages read. Amazon alleges Rubio approached KDP authors with a scheme to “use a multitude of Amazon accounts to artificially inflate the author’s numbers,” in exchange for 40% of the revenue.
In two other filings, Terrance Li of Ontario, Canada, and Alexis Pablo Marrocco of Argentina were accused of trafficking in fake book reviews. In Li’s case, Amazon said it found 75 percent — 1,471 of the 1,957 reviews — associated with Li’s how-to and learning books were “abusive” and were removed.
The last two filings, involving Thomas Glenn of Miami, Florida, and Jake Dryan of London, England, involved alleged scams to push books higher on best-seller lists. Dryan was also accused of “hyperlink abuse,” a practice now blocked by Amazon in which an author includes in the first few pages of a book a hyperlink that will send readers to the end of a book. The scam helps artificially increase the number of pages read and therefore royalty payments.
Another respondent named in the complaint is Thomas Glenn (aka Thomas Castillo or Thomas Glenn Castillo), who runs the Free Book Service. Amazon alleges this company “offers KDP publishers the ability to artificially inflate their ranking within Amazon Best Sellers.”
Part Of A Pattern
As CNet reports, Amazon has been using these kinds of legal actions since 2015 to fight against scams and has over 1,000 entities involved in allegedly creating fake product reviews on its sites. The company last year also . Amazon pursued these arbitration filings, an alternative system to resolve disputes without having to go to court because the Kindle Direct Publishing terms and conditions require any disagreement involving that business must go through the arbitration association.
It is astonishing to note that four out of five alleged scammers are not even in the US. The international nature of these scams and the company’s need to continue taking these legal steps point to how hard it can be to stamp out online scams. They also show how difficult it is for Amazon to police its enormous list of hundreds of millions of product pages. By taking legal action, Amazon may be hoping it can dissuade would-be scammers from coming to its site in the first place, making its job a little easier.