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Posting Fake Reviews Nets Bell $1.25M Fine

Fri, 16th October 2015, 19:41

Canadian companies may want to rethink the wisdom of posting fake reviews to embellish those online reputations after Canada's Competition Bureau slapped Bell Canada with a $1.25 million fine for encouraging employees to plant glowing online reviews for two company phone apps.

In November 2014, certain Bell employees were encouraged to post positive reviews and ratings of a free app without disclosing that they work for Bell. The company did attempt to have the reviews and ratings removed as soon as it became aware of the matter. Nevertheless, the Bureau determined that these reviews and ratings created the general impression that they were made by independent and impartial consumers and temporarily affected the overall star rating for the apps.

Under the consent agreement registered with the Competition Tribunal, Bell has also agreed to:

  • enhance and maintain its corporate compliance program, with a specific focus on prohibiting the rating, ranking or reviewing of apps in app stores by employees and contractors; and
  • pay an administrative monetary penalty of $1,250,000.

In addition to the consent agreement, Bell has indicated that it will sponsor and host a workshop to promote, discuss and enhance Canadians’ trust in the digital economy, including the integrity of online reviews.

 

Impartial reviews benefit both consumers and businesses.

When researching any product or service, consumers and businesses have come to rely on user reviews to provide a wealth of information so informed decisions can be made about the product they are considering. Conversely and beyond the obvious impact of misleading information on consumers, fake reviews affect competitors not trying to game the system. Companies may resort to posting fake reviews for a number of reasons

  • The Marketing and SEO fake reviews:

Utilized by new companies, or maybe old companies with new offerings looking to save some time and get a leg up on their competition having their product noticed in the marketplace. Some companies try to justify this behavior as just another form of advertising.. we view it as akin to link sharing or hiding keywords as hidden text

  • Employee bonus packages:

Many companies have come to rely on incentive programs to motivate their minimum wage support monkeys. “Get good reviews and you get a bonus”.. yeah we can all see how that could end badly!

Sometimes companies do use insouciant gesture like an email, or a poll, to get user input and opinions. Then there are the companies taking it one step further and making responses becomes a public review.

  • The reviewing my competition review:

Maybe it’s the web’s dirty little secret but some companies have been known to take it upon themselves to write a review of a competitor. Seldom seen as glowing or rated with 5 stars.

  • They just plain suck:

The worst kind of fake review are when companies write fake reviews to mislead potential clients. Maybe if these companies spent as much time appeasing customers and delivering services they could spend less time trying to undo damage, and they’d likely have a lot less damage to undo.. Then again maybe not. Sometimes they just suck

No company is able to appease 100% of the people 100% of the time. Like everything else on the web, reviews needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But reviews do serve a necessary function. They are the word of mouth testimonies of the internet. So do your part. Recommend and review your web hosting provider to other users, and share your real hosting reviews.

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