PR agency settles fake review charges
A PR agency used by Harmonix, MTV, CDV and 505 Games has settled US Federal Trade Commission charges that it posted reviews on the iTunes App Store favouring products it was paid to promote.
The FTC said that between November 2008 and May 2009 employees of Reverb Communications "posted reviews about their clients' games at the iTunes store using account names that gave readers the impression the reviews were written by disinterested consumers".
The ruling said Reverb must remove all reviews that misrepresent the author as a consumer and disclose connections in future.
"Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising," said Mary Engle, director of the FTC's Division of Advertising Practices.
"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."
Reverb's biz dev man Casey Lynch subsequently told Kotaku that the company was severely impacted by the investigation and that's why decided to settle.
"Rather than continuing to spend time and money arguing, and laying off employees to fight what we believed was a frivolous matter, we settled this case and ended the discussion because as the FTC states: 'The consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute admission by the respondents of a law violation.'"