One of the beautiful things about e-tailing is that customers who have bought a product can often post a review right at the e-location where the product is being sold. But the FTC has ordered a PR firm hired to post positive reviews in such locations to slam on the brakes.
According to the FTC, Tracie Snitker and her firm Reverb Communications Inc. was hired by a video game developer, and the firm “…engaged in deceptive advertising by having employees pose as ordinary consumers posting game reviews at the online iTunes store, and not disclosing that the reviews came from paid employees working on behalf of the developers.”
“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.”
Under terms of the settlement, Snitker/Reverb will pull down any comments still extant on the web and will refrain from engaging in such behavior in the future.
FTC explained, “In its revised endorsements and testimonials guides issued last year, the FTC specified that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the online post by a person connected to the seller, or someone who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product or service, should disclose the material connection the reviewer shares with the seller of the product or service.”