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Trading Standards pokes Amazon over 'libellous' review

Anonymous Coward

didn't find a libellious review , found some reviews with what seemed like valid negative points about the device

http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B002GP7HQM/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_one?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addOneStar&showViewpoints=0

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Wrong Link

Think this is the review you're looking for:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R39UJEH3M6BTXD/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00AF4K0ZG

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Perhaps

you should re-read the story? It's about a review which makes a false and damaging factual claim. I fail to see how the review in question - whose claim features in the story - could be considered as other than false and damaging.

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Re: Perhaps

If emergency services is calling using an unknown number, they will be prompted to press *5 to get through. That extra step could be serious, especially if a time ever comes where robocalls for a general alert are ever required for safety and security. But even without it, the extra step is a possible failure point that could prevent the number holder from being reached.

And even if it was a cold call, the extra step of pressing *5 only assures that a human is on the line who won't be stymied by it. The service being provided is pretty gimmicky and relies on honest humans, a quality you won't often find in telephonic sales.

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Silver badge

Re: Perhaps

And even if it was a cold call, the extra step of pressing *5 only assures that a human is on the line who won't be stymied by it. The service being provided is pretty gimmicky and relies on honest humans, a quality you won't often find in telephonic sales.

You'd think so, wouldn't you? But my experience using a phone at home that has BT Call Guardian built in (does very much the same job as the device in the Amazon reviews), is that it stops 100% of nuisance calls. It seems the spammers either can't, or can't be bothered to, go through the call screening steps.

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Re: Perhaps

I suspect that cold calling companies are using auto-dialers to make the initial connection then the next available agent takes over when someone answers, or just before. This would increase the efficiency, and I seem to remember hearing these places generally just have a button the agent presses when they finish a call to connect to the next one

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FAIL

Re: Perhaps

" the extra step of pressing *5 only assures that a human is on the line who won't be stymied by it."

Except that (round these parts at least) telemarketters and other phone parasites don't have access to a dial; it's either entirely robotic, the fleshie is only there to do the talking and gets the phone calls handed to them by a robotic dialer one after the other. So, unable to press the required "5*" combination.

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Re: Perhaps

Having been at a company that used auto dialers, the act of answering the phone was enough to drop the call to an agent. This service would do the same thing. Unless they are using a VoIP system that provides no way for an agent to access a number pad, my guess is that either the message about *5 is being cut off and not heard, or you've got some pretty honest salespeople over there. Those services were offered here in the States years ago, and they mostly died an ignoble death as they were not all that effective.

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Re: Perhaps

I can now imagine their impotent rage as they hear the recorded message:

'If. I. Could. Only. Press. *.5'

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Boffin

Re: Perhaps

Actually, the review is correct as stated: it blocks emergency services callbacks. If those said services follow the prompts, they can get through, however, so it is a omission in the review for that point.

As for telemarketers, some DO have the ability to directly interact with the dialer (to hit that 5* combo) if desired. However, telemarketers are incentivized to talk to people who don't want a sales call so much they buy hardware to block such calls, as it likely won't lead to an actual sale. I'd certainly result the call as a "no answer" and move on as quickly as possible. (Yes, telemarketers enter results of a call after each one and nearly all the time pick "no answer," even if you just pick up the line and hang up). Best thing to do is "please remove me from your calling list." The marketers are required, by law, to remove you when requested. Be cordial though, because even then, you might get resulted as "no answer" just to piss you off when their system calls you back after the ~3hr retry window.

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Re: Perhaps

I was told once that the robot calling devices are programmed to connect to an agent the second time the callee says "hello". While I do not know whether that is true, I have found that saying "hello" only one time appears nearly always to be effective in preventing the call from being connected to an agent.

It might be useful if someone with actual technical knowledge of these systems provided truth.

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So Trading Standards has no powers either, other than to politely ask Amazon to "reconsider its refusal". That doesn't bode well.

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Trading Standards

have no powers in relation to this at all. Their legal ambit covers a discreet set of commercial practices among which this isn't one.

The real route of recourse is a claim in defamation against Amazon. However this would be extremely expensive. I'm talking hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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Re: Trading Standards

"The real route of recourse is a claim in defamation against Amazon. However this would be extremely expensive. I'm talking hundreds of thousands of pounds."

Amazon are being berks. They have the power to shove reviews at me that I don't trust (the Amazon Vine programme), but then won't do anything about factually inaccurate? Lazy twerps. They know that they can out-lawyer individuals and even middle sized companies, so they won't get sued in the UK, where class action is ineffective and losing a civil case incurs the other party's legal costs.

What they are overlooking is that if Trading Standards are demanding a clarification of intermediary responsibilities, there's a good chance this will get wrapped up into future policy making machinations (with possible support from the likes of CAB, Which? and others). I doubt Amazon want new legal obligations, but for the sake of idleness today they seem to be encouraging them tomorrow.

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Re: Trading Standards

Typical Euro arguement, lets grass up (Insert name of any American web based company) because a commentard left a crappy review about our product that we didn't like.

The issue of "Libel" or "Defamation" is ONLY between the actual negative reviewer and the company or person getting the negative review, Amazon just provided a service and a forum for feedback. They have no business censoring or editing the review and are not liable for what its' posters say.

Have you ever heard of Yelp? or Angies List? They provide similar systems that effectively do the same thing.

If any company was going to test the legal waters it would have been those companies as they are structured around positive or negative reviews.

http://ideas.time.com/2013/01/07/yelp-reviewers-beware-you-can-get-sued/

"Under federal law — 47 U.S.C. § 230, to be specific — websites like Yelp and Angie’s List are shielded from being sued for defamation, but the writers — people like Perez — are legally responsible for what they write and lawsuits can be filed against them. That may not be what a lot of people are thinking when they go on Angie’s List or Amazon to air grievances. In fact, Perez told the Washington Post that when she posted her reviews it never occurred to her that she might end up in court or on the hook for thousands of dollars in legal fees — not to mention the monetary damages. Dietz is suing for $750,000, and awards can go far higher than that. In 2006, a jury awarded a Florida woman $11.3 million in damages against a woman who made defamatory comments on an Internet message board.

The Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling is an important defense of people’s right to go online and express their views. But it is also a reminder that anyone who crosses the line may have to pay up — big time."

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Re: Trading Standards

Defamation cases can be cheap and easy. Bring them in person, and you can do the whole thing for a few hundred quid. Provided you win - If you lose you will pay the loser's reasonable costs which may be tens of thousands.

In any case Amazon will probably fold at the first pre-action protocol step: A letter to their registered office, noting the damages and threatening to sue if nothing is done.

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Thumb Down

Re: Trading Standards

"The issue of "Libel" or "Defamation" is ONLY between the actual negative reviewer and the company or person getting the negative review, Amazon just provided a service and a forum for feedback. They have no business censoring or editing the review and are not liable for what its' posters say"

That might be the case in the US, but British libel law has other ideas. By hosting that review and telling Trading Standards to eff off, Amazon has effectively admitted to being a publisher, which makes them jointly liable on this side of the pond. If you want to make out you know about legal stuff, there is plenty of case law on the subject. Take a look here for starters:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/03/30/demon_coughs_up_damages/

I grant you, the odds are stacked against the little guy, but if Amazon tried that on with someone whose pockets were deep enough to fund a libel action, they could find themselves being taken to the cleaners - or at least, their UK subsidiary could.

Disclaimer - IANAL, but as I'm a writer, I've made a point of understanding enough about UK libel laws, just so I won't get sued.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trading Standards

"They have no business censoring or editing the review and are not liable for what its' posters say."

No business at all?

You linked a trial about private citizens, you'll have to link a case about how if party A. (Amazon) makes a profit off of party B. (the seller), how party A. can in no way be responsible for the profit of party B. I do see what you mean, but if someone rented a store in a mall, would the mall just allow people to wrongfully protest outside that store, with no responsibility? Maybe, if the mall somehow had an EULA for this specific case, so does this mall (Amazon) have one? If it does, obviously you or no one else can't hide the fact that that's a shitty mall.

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Silver badge

Re: Trading Standards

"The real route of recourse is a claim in defamation against Amazon. "

Which Amazon would win - even if they're publishers

They'd win because it DOES block calls from emergency services (they generally use caller-ID block) unless they use *5 (generally they won't).

No matter how it's dressed, requiring someone to jump through hoops is quite an effective way of blocking them and the review brings up a valid point which many buyers wouldn't have considered.

(Disclosure: I block all anon calls and I know the implications)

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Re: Trading Standards

Sorry Dan Paul but this is bollocks of the highest order:

"The issue of "Libel" or "Defamation" is ONLY between the actual negative reviewer and the company or person getting the negative review, Amazon just provided a service and a forum for feedback. They have no business censoring or editing the review and are not liable for what its' posters say."

In England and Wales the law allows the damaged party to bring an action against a publisher or republisher of the defamatory or libelous comment. In refusing to act on the request of the complainant Amazon has made itself the publisher and is now in the same legal boat as the original commentator.

As to the merit of the claim, that's a different issue but the laws over here are very different to the US.

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Re: Trading Standards

@Dan Paul

Sorry Dan, but trotting out US laws for what is clearly a UK incident earns you a down-vote. Perhaps you didn't read the review? The "999" instead of "911" might have been a clue.

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Why has the seller not commented on the review?

I found the 1* review in question, there are no comments on it explaining the functionality. If I was the seller would be leaving a comment or emailing the commenter directly, his email is on his profile.

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Re: Why has the seller not commented on the review?

That would seem to be the obvious course of action wouldn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why has the seller not commented on the review?

And if the reviewer said no or didn't respond at all?

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

they seemed to have deleted mine

But I got that through ' Fulfilled by Amazon ' (In the disappeared review I said I received a fake product)

No deletions ever on normal Amazon stuff(though I mostly post positive, (bad delivery and stuff I accept as circumstantial so don't), just for the Fulfilled by Amazon.

I expect better from Fulfilled !

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Anonymous Coward

But what will become of the other "creative" reviews?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Mountain-Three-Short-Sleeve/dp/B002HJ377A

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Silver badge

Re: But what will become of the other "creative" reviews?

I think in the case where a review is clearly parody (of which there are many, of varied quality on Amazon), it is obvious to the reader that it is such. The famous examples (sugar free gummi bears, hideously expensive interconnect cables, three wolf moon shirt, etc.) aren't defamatory because they aren't claiming to be factual.

On the other hand, a review which does claim to be factual, but is factually incorrect, and clearly so (as in this case) can't be anything other than defamatory. One wonders as to the motivation (and identity) of the reviewer - for example, do they have a vested interest in the product being reviewed negatively because, for instance, they are the producer of a rival product.

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Silver badge

Re: But what will become of the other "creative" reviews?

This one still makes me laugh

http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B000KKNQBK/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_summary?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=byRankDescending

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Thumb Up

Re: But what will become of the other "creative" reviews?

I'm going to forward that one to my girlfriend.

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Anonymous Coward

http://www.amazon.com/review/R2VDKZ4X1F992Q/

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Silver badge
Boffin

a) shouldn't the action be against the reviewer?

b) I think the company has got some good press coverage now!

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a) shouldn't the action be against the reviewer?

Not under British libel law where anyone in the chain relaying the message can be pursued. If there is a libellous comment about you printed in a newspaper you can theoretically go after the newspaper, the printers, the distributors, even individual newsagents.

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Typical EURO answer

British libel law is way out of touch with the Internet, and has no legal power over Amazon. If you did sue them, you better have some very deep pockets as the other side of that is you are FULLY liable for everything spent if you lose the case.

And you call Americans litigeous.

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Re: Typical EURO answer

> has no legal power over Amazon

Since the review is available from amazon.co.uk, you are very, very wrong.

But i'd expect that from an ignorant American.

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Re: Typical EURO answer

"And you call Americans litigeous"

No. I would call them litigious.

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Flame

Sugar Free Gummi Bear Reviews, Anyone?

Presumably Haribo's lawyers were equally unsuccessful in their approaches to Amazon?:

http://www.amazon.com/Haribo-Sugar-Free-Gummy-Bears/product-reviews/B008JELLCA

[Icon for the 'alleged' side effects]

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Coat

Re: Sugar Free Gummi Bear Reviews, Anyone?

It's not often that I genuinely LOL, but those reviews were so well written and descriptive that I just couldn't help myself. Shit. :)

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Silver badge

It actually MAY block them depending what callback service they're using

If the system is based on a computer presenting a list of options, the operator actually may NOT be able to dial a DTMF digit 5 into the device's prompt (I'm very hopeful I'll be corrected by someone with knowledge of the inner workings of the system, I'm not gonna dial 999 to ask the people <grin> )

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It actually MAY block them depending what callback service they're using

It would be helpful if official bodies followed the general guidelines and provided a CLI number that can be called for verification purposes. My doctors' surgery and local council have modern multi-user switchboards. Both show as "Withheld" - as they are apparently unable to program a CLI of their general public number.

My other problem is having to answer "international" calls that "might" be a friend calling me.

I don't see the "Press 5 or go away" working with the usual cold callers. They are persistent beyond belief even when it is clear you are not interested from the offset.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It actually MAY block them depending what callback service they're using

When we had a BT phone exchange we were able to do this, but when we upgraded we found out that it is in fact illegal to give a "false" number to the network, even if this is representative of where the phone really is, or indeed a contact number.

We now have all the numbers withheld because the outgoing number(s) have no way of being answered (combination landline out of the exchange and mobile SIMs) ...

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Silver badge

Re: It actually MAY block them depending what callback service they're using

"I don't see the "Press 5 or go away" working with the usual cold callers. They are persistent beyond belief even when it is clear you are not interested from the offset."

It works for me. Since I implemented an Asterisk exchange at home with a similar setup three years ago, my home cold calls have gone down to exactly 0. Maybe I'm lucky but I suspect that they give up and move on when their dialler "detects" an answer machine.

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Silver badge

Re: It actually MAY block them depending what callback service they're using

"I don't see the "Press 5 or go away" working with the usual cold callers. They are persistent beyond belief even when it is clear you are not interested from the offset."

I have a slightly tailored approach: "Unauthorized access to this system is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act, 1990. The access code is 1234." But I think it's mainly academic - many autodiallers have 'grunt detection' - a bit of software that tries to determine, from aspiration etc., whether the voice on the other end is live or a recording. Anything that sounds dull and flat causes a hang-up. Try it: answer the phone as if you were recording a message!

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Re: It actually MAY block them depending what callback service they're using

I'm a happy Truecall user because it gives control back to me - I decide who gets through to me. I can confirm that 'Press 5 or go away' works every time; the telepests don't bother to press 5, and those that need to get through, can.

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Silver badge

Re: It actually MAY block them depending what callback service they're using

Not illegal if the 'presentation' number is yours (For example an 08xx number, or a main switchboard number, etc.).

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I suppose if you're dialling 999 then checking the veracity of the callback CLI wouldn't be top priority

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Flame

how are you supposed to test the system?

You call 999 (or 911 in my case).

I do, emphatically, suggest that you find out if there are any specific regulations regarding 'test 911 calls'.

Either New York City or Chicago ( I can't remember which one it was) have a special procedure you have to follow. I seem to remember that the penalty for a 'test call' was $10k (and this was more than 10 years ago.)

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Um, is this true everywhere

I've rung (and then been rung back by) 999 twice, both times in London. On both occasions the incoming call showed up as 999. Maybe other 999 call centers can't program the phone system as well.

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Silver badge

NHS systems CAN give a CLI if it is needed, sadly though, even when it is written in your notes that a call wont go through without a CLI, they still try to call you without one - and get blocked.

I had nearly a dozen reminder calls blocked for one single appointment because nobody could be arsed to read the note and act on it.

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Anonymous Coward

The review isn't factually incorrect.

If you choose to block all anonymous calls with TrueCall, it blocks ALL anonymous calls including from the emergency services. It even says so in the manual.

If the reviewer bought TrueCall to block anonymous calls he is correct but shouldn't moan too much as its working as intended.

To quote my TrueCall Reference Guide (c) 2009 (page 7-8) -

Anonymous Caller Reject

If you have Caller ID on your phone line, you can tell trueCall to

reject all anonymous callers - all callers who withhold their calling

number. It plays them the announcement :-

“You have withheld your calling number so I cannot connect you”

and doesn’t ring your phone. Anonymous Caller Reject only blocks

calls where the caller has withheld their number. If the caller’s

number is not available for any other reason - for example it is an

international call - then Anonymous Caller Reject will let it through.

WARNING: Anonymous Caller Reject is very effective at blocking

malicious calls, but be aware that it may also block calls that you

want to receive. Doctors, hospitals, the Police, government

organisations and many companies routinely withhold their

numbers.

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