Amazon has been accused of manipulating reviews to promote its own brands over third-party merchants.

According to Bloomberg, review watchdogs and excluded merchants are now “alleging Amazon is guilty of review manipulation”.

Allegedly multiple sellers experienced a drop in sales when Amazon introduced its own version of the same product and showed their own products higher in search results.

Amazon used its “Vine” program which connects vendors with regular reviewers for a fee, allowing those vendors to provide their products for free for customers to review.

However, independent merchants are excluded from the program — which means Amazon’s own label products may be able to get more reviews on their products and appear above the merchants’ products in the search results.

Amazon now has more than 120 brands with 100 of these introduced over the last two years.

One customer in the Vine program left nearly 40 reviews for products he/she received for free in one day.

The merchants’ complaints have been magnified as the ecommerce giant faces a European Union antitrust probe into whether Amazon advantages its own merchandise over rival products on the site.

Amazon responded that shoppers in the Vine program “can select from any eligible product, whether it’s an Amazon private-label product or a product from one of our vendors. The same guardrails that are in place for vendors are in place for our private-label brands.”

Related: Don’t Get Suspended for Review Manipulation on Amazon

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