Amazon reviews are useful, but it's wise to take them with a pinch of salt. Many five-star reviewers who absolutely "love" their products seem too good to be true and it's difficult to determine their authenticity.

The online retailer obviously sees fake reviews as a threat to its credibility. In an attempt to clamp down on the process, Amazon is suing a California man for peddling packages of falsified reviews to Amazon sellers.

Amazon has filed a suit in King County Superior Court in Seattle against Jay Gentile, the operator of the websites bayreviews.net and buyreviewsnow.com, sites which allegedly provide bulk falsified reviews to Amazon sellers. Gentile, from California, is being accused of trademark infringement, false advertising and violations of the Anticyber­squatting Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit is also targeting sites buyamazonreviews.com and buyazonreviews.com as well as some "John Does" also believed to be invloved in the scheme. Some of the named websites have already been taken down as the URLs are no longer working.

"While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon's brand," the suit says.

Mark Collins, the owner of buyamazonreviews.com, has denied Amazon's claims. "We are not selling fake reviews. However, we do provide unbiased and honest reviews on all the products," Collins told the Seattle Times. "And this is not illegal at all."

The suit claims Gentile told the customers that the seller could ship empty packages in an effort to fool Amazon into believing the reviewer was a "verified purchaser." It says the website sells its service for $19 to $22 per review.

Amazon also accuses the sites of trademark infringement, for using its logo without permission and cybersquatting for hosting sites with names that are confusingly similar to Amazon.

The suit asks that all four sites cease selling reviews, stop using the Amazon logo and is also seeking triple damages and legal fees.  At the time of writing bayreviews.net and buyazonreviews.com were no longer in operation. Fake reviews have plagued Amazon since it started, but this is the first time the company has taken legal action to stop the practice. It will be interesting to see if Amazon has enough evidence to disprove Collin's claims that the reviews he supplies are genuine.

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