PR firm staff wrote iTunes 'customer' reviews
US regulators have said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that it had employees pose as unbiased videogame buyers and post reviews at Apple's online iTunes store.
The deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
"Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising," said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.
"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."
The FTC last year said that anyone posting online endorsements or testimonials must disclose if they have any connections to the sellers or are being compensated in any way for reviews.
California-based Reverb provides marketing and public relations services to videogame makers.
Between November of 2008 and May of the following year, Reverb posted reviews at iTunes about clients' games in ways that gave the impression the comments "were written by disinterested customers," according to the FTC.
Reverb failed to disclose that it was hired to promote the games and often received a percentage of sales, the FTC said.
Reverb did not return an AFP request for comment.
(c) 2010 AFP