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Bell to pay $1.25 million for astroturfing app reviews

By Jules Wang October 14, 2015, 7:29 pm

Back in 2009, Apple decided to block over a thousand apps from its App Store in one fell swoop. Most of them had previously been tracked by users and journalists as having been astroturfed — review pages painted with extremely positive, poorly written comments from accounts that only seemed to review a certain developer’s products.

Mind you, we’ve covered Samsung’s positive and negative astroturfing campaigns before. But the most important things an app has is its star rating and reviews. After all, they’re put right up in your face before you hit “install.”

Some of Bell’s employees apparently took their MyBell Mobile and Virgin My Account apps’ reputations seriously enough to have astroturfed the reviews pages without disclosing that they were employees of the Canadian telecom conglomerate.

Today, Bell Canada has agreed with the country’s Competition Bureau to not “direct, encourage or incentivize its employees or contractors to rate, rank or review apps in app stores.”

A stipulation of the agreement force Bell to enhance corporate compliance program with specific training on the prohibition of app rankings. The Competition Bureau also levied a $1.25 million penalty against the company.

Spokespeople from both entities have said that Bell has been thoroughly cooperative in investigating the matter and removing the reviews at-issue.

No one could tell why a proprietary cellular account maintenance app would really need that much of a ratings boost.

Source: Competition Bureau
Via: The Globe and Mail, 9to5Mac, The Guardian (background)

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