The Amazon Shopping App in the Google Play Store on an Android smartphone.
Christoph Dernbach | Image Alliance | Getty Images
Apple removed Fakespot, a popular app for detecting fake product reviews, from its app store after Amazon complained that the app contained misleading information and potential security risks.
The Fakespot app analyzes the credibility of the reviews of an Amazon offer and rates them with grades A to F. Then buyers receive recommendations for products with high customer satisfaction.
Amazon said it reported Fakespot to Apple for investigation after worrying that a redesigned version of the app confused consumers by displaying the Amazon website in the app with Fakespot code and content overlaid on top of it. Amazon said it doesn’t allow applications to do this. An Amazon spokesperson claimed, “The app in question provides customers with misleading information about our sellers and their products, harms our sellers’ businesses and creates potential security risks.”
On Friday afternoon, after a review by Apple, the app was no longer available in the App Store.
Misleading or fake user reviews have proven to be a major problem for online retailers, including Amazon. The company recently stepped up its efforts to detect and remove fake reviews. The third-party marketplace, made up of millions of sellers, accounts for more than half of the company’s total revenue, but has become fertile ground for fake reviews, counterfeiting, and unsafe products. Regulators in the US and abroad have taken steps to curb fake reviews on and off Amazon.
As fake reviews spread the internet, third-party apps and websites have sprung up to help shoppers spot them, like Fakespot, ReviewMeta, and ReconBob.
Amazon has reported the well-known Fakespot detector app to Apple for investigation, which triggered the removal from the App Store.
Apple said in a statement that on June 8th, Amazon launched a dispute with the Fakespot app over intellectual property rights. Apple said it provided steps to Fakespot to keep their app in the store and given them “plenty of time” to resolve the issue. It then reached out to Fakespot on June 29, weeks before the app was removed from the App Store.
An Apple spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to questions about which App Store guidelines were violated by Fakespot.
But Amazon pointed out two subsections of Apple’s App Store guidelines to CNBC that Fakespot may have violated. A policy states that apps must ensure that they are allowed to use, access, monetize access to, or display content from third parties. Another guideline is that apps shouldn’t contain incorrect information and functionality.
Amazon also claims that Fakespot’s coding technique enables the app to collect and track information from customers. The company made similar claims last January against Honey, a browser extension that allows users to find coupons when shopping online, and warned users that it could be a “security risk”.
Fakespot: “You have shown zero evidence”
In an interview, Saoud Khalifah, founder and CEO of Fakespot said he denied Amazon’s claims that the app posed security risks and said that while Fakespot collects some user data, it does not sell it to third parties.
Khalifah added that many apps use the same coding technique called “wrapping” to include a web browser view, such as coupon providers. He said many apps and websites also collect and track user information, including Amazon.
“We don’t steal user information, we’ve never done that before,” said Khalifah. “You showed zero evidence and Apple acted with zero evidence.”
Fakespot released a new version of its app at the end of May. Amazon reported the app to Apple in mid-June, Khalifah said.
Khalifah said he was upset that Apple Fakespot failed to give adequate warning that the app would be removed from the App Store or that issues with the app could be fixed.
“Imagine you go to a tenant and say you have to take all your belongings with you, you have to leave immediately. That’s how I feel right now, to be completely honest with you, ”he added.
The Fakespot app will still be available in the Google Play Store for Android devices from Friday evening.