This is a topic that I'll explore as time goes on. The page this links to speaks to a few of the "pay for participation" awards.
Information about proliferation of olive oil awards:
"Olive Oil Producers are eager to win tasting competitions and achieve official certification for their oil. The awards hopefully translate into a medal or seal on the label, recognition for a superior product with a commensurate increase in sales. But there has been a proliferation of medals and seals available and they aren’t all created equally. The ones that industry players covet and respect may not mean much to consumers. Other awards which are promoted with a sophisticated media campaign funded by royalties from agribusiness giants may get more attention. More seals may lead to consumer confusion, disinterest or distrust.
Olive Oil producers in California generally respect the results of the L.A. County Fair judging and the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) seal as legitimate indicators of quality. That can’t be said for the ACI awards described above.
The problem is the awards are founded on a flawed premise. The insinuation is that there is an “institute” of chefs who cheerfully judge products which have not even asked to be judged. In reality the ACI is a business that is in the business of awarding medals and receiving money for it. Their process is designed to maximize royalty income, not choose the best oil. It is not surprising that none of the oils chosen for judging have ever won an award in a more rigorous venue...."