Have you ever read a suspiciously glowing review on a site like iTunes or Yelp and wondered whether it is legitimate? A recent settlement shows that at least one company, California based Reverb Communications, was posting fake iTunes reviews between November 2008 and May 2009. According to the FTC, Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, created several fake iTunes accounts. They then used the accounts to post a number of positive reviews about their clients’ apps in order to inflate their ratings. They did not disclose that the reviews were being written by people being paid to promote the company.
The company settled with the FTC and agreed to remove the reviews within a week and to stop posting fake reviews. In the future, they must state that they represent their clients if they promote them on sites such as iTunes.
Reverb denied the allegations and said that the iTunes comments came from employees who made the comments on their own time. Reverb claimed the posts were not mandated by the company. The company said it was settling the lawsuit only to move on with their business.
Using general common sense is important when it comes to promotion and advertising. Generally speaking, if you are endorsing something, you need to make it clear if you are being paid or if you have an interest in the company. Mary Engle, director of the FTC’s division of advertising practices explained it well in a statement, reported by PCMag.com, "Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing, need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising ... Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers."