FTC Closes Case Over Fake iTunes Reviews
The Federal Trade Commission has settled with Reverb Communications over fake positive reviews posted on behalf of its clients in the iTunes App Store. The company represents several developers who produce apps for iOS, and helped raise their ratings by posting the reviews.
FTC officials did not disclose which companies worked with Reverb to boost their ratings, nor did they say that those companies shared any fault. They ordered Reverb to have all comments removed within a period of seven days.
According to the complaint, the postings were made between November 2008 and May 2009. Apps were given four and five star reviews with comments such as "Amazing new game," "One of the best apps just got better," or "ONE of the BEST," for example. They were made to appear as if they had been posted by a consumer.
Reverb said in a statement that it thought the FTC complaint was frivolous, but rather than fight it, it decided to settle. It noted the terms of the settlement stated that it was not an admission of guilt.
The company argued that it didn't mandate the postings, and seven of the 16 employees working on the PR for these apps actually purchased them. I have to say, that's the biggest line of malarkey I've ever heard. Yeah, you're going to work for a PR company, purchase a game you work with, and give it a negative review? Come on!
If you think this is some kind of secret practice, it isn't. In fact, I've seen on freelance job sites explicit requests by companies for writers to produce positive reviews on sites like the iTunes App Store for the sole purpose of boosting their ratings (and a nice chunk of change for doing so).
In the end, I don't think there is really much that can be done to stop this practice, even though the FTC has already put forth guidelines for online reviews. Caveat emptor, I guess?