Is it Legal for Amazon Sellers to Offer a PayPal Refund Promotion?

amazon seller refund paypal hero

The short answer is no. In fact, it goes against Amazon’s “Community Guidelines (guidelines for Amazon.com community participation)”.

For well over a year, Amazon’s Community Guidelines have stated that offering refunds in exchange for reviews (in Amazon’s terms “Community content”) is grounds to “suspend or terminate your [Amazon] account.”

More on that below.

What is This?

In the past 6 months, there has been a huge uptick in the number of Amazon Sellers (or people posing as Sellers) offering product testing promotions with the catch that you must purchase the item first, then they will send you a refund via PayPal, Venmo or some other method. See example emails below:

email amazon seller offering paypal refund

An email from Amazon Seller — April 2017.


The following email is a bit vague on just how you are going to get your refund, but same scam:

email amazon seller offering refund

An email from Amazon Seller — June 2017.

Is This Legal?

If the person sending the email is an Amazon Seller and is requesting you purchase it through Amazon, then no, it is NOT legal. For well over a year, Amazon’s Community Guidelines have stated that offering refunds in exchange for reviews (in Amazon’s terms “Community content”) is grounds to “suspend or terminate your [Amazon] account.”

A screenshot taken on July 29, 2017 of Amazon’s “Community Guidelines: Promotions and Commercial Solicitations” section:

Promotions and Commercial Solicitations

See highlighted line of the Amazon Community Guidelines: Promotions and Commercial Solicitations section

Is Amazon Sellers Offering a Refund a Scam?

In some cases, yes. While I truly believe the vast majority of Amazon Sellers are trustworthy entrepreneurs running an honest business, there are some out looking to just take your money (see this Jan 2017 Forbes article about fraudulent Amazon Sellers). Just as there are email scams (“phishing” etc), there are promotional scams as well.

Think about it for a second: a stranger sends you an email asking you to go buy a product from a respectable site (Amazon) with the promise that they will refund your money. Regardless of what Amazon or myself say, does that even sound on the up-and-up? No, it does not. Scammers are using the trusted Amazon brand to fool you into thinking it is A) an approved promotion, and B) covered by some Amazon protection. It is neither, and there are zero protections in place for this kind of scam!

Why are Amazon Sellers Offering PayPal Refunds?

From having received thousands of promotion requests from Amazon Sellers in the past 6 years, I feel this is four-fold:

  • Sellers are taking issue with Amazon not giving some discounted purchases the ‘verified’ badge on their reviews, and think this is a way around that.
  • it’s a trend toward Sellers believing they can handle the product testing promotions themselves instead of paying the product testing companies.
  • the Seller may be new to Amazon and unable to create promotional coupon codes just yet
  • it’s an easy scam to pull off: set up an Amazon Seller account (or 100), create some interesting product pages, send out emails…

The things is, this is a super easy promotion to understand, thus yielding great results. A person offers you a 100% refund for purchase a specific pair of $30 Bluetooth headphones. Wow, what a deal! They look nice, and are something many people want, but would probably not be able to afford. Or, they offer a high-end item like a projector with the promise of refunding 50%-70% of the purchase price in two weeks.

Wait, why two weeks?! Because that is when Amazon releases the money from Seller Central to the Seller’s bank account. See highlighted section below of Amazon’s Seller Help: “Getting Paid”

amazon seller getting paid

Screenshot of Amazon Seller Help: Getting Paid section

Think about it one more time: you get an email asking you to purchase a product with your own money. They say they will refund you “in two weeks” after it ships. Don’t you think that is an odd coincidence? No it is not: they will have your money, and (more importantly) you may be outside the A-Z Guarantee coverage.

What About Amazon’s A-Z Guarantee? I’m Covered, Right?

Maybe. And even if it is covered, you may be out the time it takes to meet all the requirements to file an A-Z claim: emailing the Seller, waiting at least two days for response, then ensuring you meet one of the lengthy requirements listed in the A-to-z Claim Conditions. And, you may be charged a restocking fee, and possibly shipping, as well. Meaning, you are in the negative: no item and paying the restock and shipping out of pocket. Why risk it?


What Should I Do?

I strongly recommend you do the following, it’s what I do each time I get one of these emails:

  1. Hit reply, and copy and paste the following into the email:
    • Offering to refund me in order to write a review is against Amazon’s Guidelines: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730

      See line “Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products, refunds, or reimbursements) or on behalf of anyone else.”

      You and I could get kicked off Amazon for this. Please do not ask other reviewers to do this.

  2. Report this to Amazon’s Customer Service via their form. (You will need to log into Amazon for this.)
  3. Feel free to publicly shame them on our Facebook Page. Others need to know about these Sellers and brands so we can avoid them.

I highly recommend sticking to the coupon method, or have them ship it to you directly. Never pay out of pocket upfront, it’s not worth the double risk.


Original photo by Freddie Collins on Unsplash

21 Comments

Jaymie

I think it’s legal–you won’t get arrested or fined by the government, but it’s against Amazon’s rules, so they could ban you or sure you. Or is my understanding of the terminology incorrect?

Reply
Tristan

Agreed, you (likely) won’t get arrested. I mean ‘legal’ in the sense that by having an Amazon account you agreed “to Amazon’s Conditions of Use and Privacy Notice.” In my amateur lawyer understanding, that is a legally binding contract with Amazon. (How well it holds up in court is another matter.)

Reply
Steve

Nothing about this is illegal. It’s against amazon’s terms of service and amazon can do what they want to you. There’s no US law that says “if you don’t follow the amazon terms of service you will be arrested/ penalized.”

I imagine an account banning is the worst that could happen

Reply
Tristan

True. Like I stated in a previous comment response… I mean ‘legal’ in the sense that by having an Amazon account you agreed “to Amazon’s Conditions of Use and Privacy Notice.”

Reply
CF

I love you for this! So tired of people trying to bend the rules and/or find loopholes. I get at least 10+ emails a day asking this and I always let them know it’s against the rules and include a screenshot of that section of the rules. Honestly, though, even if it wasn’t against the rules, I wouldn’t do it!! There are many reviewers agreeing to it, though, and that’s why the sellers keep on sending out those emails.

Reply
A Fed Up Reviewer

I agree that it nerving wrecking to get hundreds of email from a seller and they want you to review their product by buying first and they refund you Paypal once the review is done and then they promise to refund you your money I have heard so many Horror stories about sellers getting you to do this and when you contact them they do not respond to your email. I have told and responded to sellers that if I buy a product it will be a product that I paid for out my own pocket and something that I choose to buy and to review. Amazon has sent me email where sellers have been removed from their website due to sellers getting buyers to buy their product and never shipping the product out.

Reply
Fredrika

I’ve been getting emails from “HoneySaver.com”. It says I’m subscribed, may be from another site… my issue is, I can’t find any information about this site. Honeysaver Ashley Smith. What’s your word on this one?

Reply
Tristan

I checked, and I haven’t gotten any emails from them. Site looks kind of janky, so fairly certain I would NOT sign up with them or make any purchases through them.

Reply
Fredrika

Thanks Tristan, I read your site, and choose where to buy with your reviews. I thought the same, how the site appears. Thank You!!

Reply
Kimberly Stephenson

I have and still use this site. Its on the up and up. There’s not always a lot of great items but every now and then there’s a few goodies thrown in!

Reply
Alan duprey

My PayPal account has become limited. PayPal is asking questions about the nature of the refunds. they ‘re asking what foods or services i provided. Can I tell them I got a refund for a review?

Reply
Tristan

This is the first I have heard of PayPal limiting or suspending your account because of refunds. Makes sense though: to get money refunded into your account without having made an original purchase would raise some flags. While I have no idea how you would handle this, it’s just another reason to not accept refunds via PayPal. (But, if you are going to do this anyway, at least make a second PayPal account that you don’t rely on.)

I also recommend purchasing the items via PayPal in the first place. That way the refund goes with the original purchase, and isn’t just a ‘refund.’

Reply
yvette

what about if they send you money first through paypal. you take that money, order the item yourself. they are now asking for you to just send them the order# and you review. is this legit or a scam? i am getting a text through facebook from lightning product review group. please help

Reply
Tristan

Based on Amazon’s policies, it doesn’t matter if they pay you before, during or after the review. It is still compensation for writing a review. And that goes against their policies.

I don’t know if they are legit or a scam&emdash;it’s hard to tell without seeing the email/communication they sent.

Reply
Felix

I get it that it may be illegal for sellers to be asking for reviews, especially a five-star, in exchange for the buyer to get a refund…it wouldn’t be ethical, but why call it a scam? If buyer gets his Paypal, whether it takes one or more weeks, then it’s not a scam. I guess my question is; how is the supposed seller taking advantage of the buyer if he/she gets the money refunded? How does the scam really works?

Reply
Tristan

As far as ‘scamming’ goes, I am talking about the fact that MANY of these are not ethical and do NOT send the money. It’s a lot like the ‘free watch’ scams going around on Instagram right now: free watch, just pay for shipping (which claims to take a month, but never arrives.)

Plus, a PayPal refund goes against Amazon’s policy. So, what are you going to do, complain to Amazon that someone was going to pay you for a review? No way! That would get you kicked off Amazon. So, again, it’s a scam because you have no recourse for the item you were conned into buying.

Reply
Karel

I don’t see what is the scam. They ask you to review their products and give positive feedback. You can agree upon that and you do the review according to your conscience. If the product is bad it will get a bad review, I know I will not get refunded by them, but I will get refunded by Amazon, because the product is worthless or not as described and I will ask to return the item. I have agreed upon some of these mails and till today all products are worth it and have been reviewed positively and I have been refunded 100%. So not all of them are scams.

And by the way I’m not going against any Amazon Rules, Because I select what I want or was looking for and Buy it. The best of it is that I get them for free. In other words I only buy what I want or need, I don’t just buy everything, because it’s free. An example is this one: I receive many mails offering items for the IPhone. I don’t accept them, because I don’t own an IPhone. So, although being free, they are worthless for me, because I don’t need them. An another thing would be if I bought them, got a refund because of a positive review was done, and then start selling them to make money. Buying because I wanted the product is not the same as buying because I will resell it.

Keep in mind that I’m not saying that you have to accept the email offers, but if they are offering you a product you were looking for or wanted for free, WHY NOT.

and if or

Reply
Karel

I forgot to say that some of them even refunded me before I did the review and that the offers I accepted were all from AMAZON. So be cautious about what you do, there is always a risk involved. Nothing in life is risk free.

Reply
Tristan

And by the way I’m not going against any Amazon Rules

All I can say is please reread the article above. It clearly spells out how you are in fact going against Amazon’s policies. It states “refunds” and “reimbursements” are NOT allowed in exchange for writing reviews. Just because you want the item doesn’t negate the fact that the Paypal payment is a reimbursement, and therefore in violation of Amazon’s stated policy.

You may get 1, 10 or more free items. But, when Amazon catches up with you, you will be getting zero items, and likely locked out of buying from Amazon. It’s just not worth it.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *