Astroturfing: What’s Real Online
Astroturfing: What’s Real Online
Many things found on the internet may not be exactly what they seem. Last week the Canadian Competition Bureau reminded us that this truism has legal implications with regard to online reviews.For some time the Canadian Competition Bureau has indicated that it has concerns with respect to a number of on-line marketing practices, including “flogging” (“fake blogging”) ― which involves people promoting a product or service in blogs, without revealing ties to the supplier of the product; and “astroturfing” ― purported grass roots user reviews of products which are in fact supplied by persons interested in the product rather than disinterested product users.
On October 14, 2015 the Competition Bureau announced it had entered into a Consent Agreement with Bell Canada to resolve concerns that certain Bell employees were encouraged to post positive reviews and ratings of the “MyBell” mobile app and the “Virgin My Account” app. The Bureau concluded that these reviews and ratings created the general impression that they were made by independent, impartial consumers, rather than by Bell employees. The results of these reviews affected, for a time, the overall ratings for the apps.
In resolving the Bureau’s concerns Bell agreed to enhance its corporate compliance program with a specific focus on prohibiting ratings and rankings by its employees and contractors, and also agreed to pay an Administrative Monetary Penalty of $1.25 million.
While the Bureau has expressed concern about these practices for some time, this is the first major enforcement action focused specifically on the astroturfing issue. It is a timely reminder for those who rely on online reviews of their products that care must be taken to ensure that what purports to be an unbiased independent review really is so.
by James B. Musgrove
A Cautionary Note
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.
© McMillan LLP 2015
Insights (5 Posts)
Update for Ontario Employers: Proposed Changes Related to Remote Workers
Ontario employer's should note proposed amendments to the province's employment laws that would clarify remote employees' entitlements in mass terminations.
Trademark of Foreign Owner Invalidated on the Basis of Bad Faith
Awareness of a senior rights holder’s trademark and its prior use of such trademark in Canada is relevant to the assessment of bad faith.
Fanning the Flames of Liability: The Ontario Court of Appeal Considers Product Liability Issues in Burr v. Tecumseh Products of Canada Limited
The decision of the Court of Appeal in Burr v. Tecumseh Products of Canada Limited, 2023 ONCA 135 provides a helpful overview of product liability law.
A Look at Some Key Findings by the Alberta Securities Commission in Re Bison Acquisition Corp.
On December 21, 2021, a panel of the Alberta Securities Commission issued its written decision providing its reasons for the oral ruling it made on July 12, 2021 regarding applications brought by Bison Acquisition Corp. and Brookfield Infrastructure Corporation Exchange Limited Partnership, as well as Inter Pipeline Ltd. and Pembina Pipeline Corporation.
Employer’s Disturbing Termination Conduct Results in $15,000 Moral Damages Award
Teljeur v Aurora Hotel Group 2023 ONSC 1324 provides example of post-termination conduct and bad faith damages.
Get updates delivered right to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time.