Digital Brain
digital brain
digital brain

Astroturfing: What’s Real Online

October 2015 Competition and Marketing & Advertising Bulletin 2 minutes read

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

Related Publications (5 Posts)

Featured Insight

China Mobile Case Raises National Security Hang-up

China Mobile is challenging the Canadian government's order to divest its Canadian operations. The case raises important cross-border investment issues.

Read More
Oct 25, 2021
Featured Insight

Making a Lot out of a Little – Laneway Housing a Niche Market Opportunity for Municipalities, Property Owners, Real Estate Developers and Investors

An overview of laneway suites / housing as means of adding to housing stock in Toronto and beyond.

Read More
Oct 25, 2021
Featured Insight

CSA Propose Standardized and Reinforced Climate-Related Disclosure — Primer on Proposed National Instrument NI 51-107 Disclosure of Climate-related Matters

McMillan Bulletin Proposed National Instrument 51-107 Disclosure of Climate-related Matters Canadian Securities Administrators Climate Change Disclosure

Read More
Oct 25, 2021
Featured Insight

Major Canadian Banks Join Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) — Unpacking the Initiative and Net-Zero Commitments

On the eve of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, six of Canada’s largest banks announced they had signed on to the Net-Zero Banking Alliance.

Read More
Oct 21, 2021
Featured Insight

Antitrust Reform: Canada Too!

James Musgrove and Sarah Stirling-Moffet talk Competition law reform in Canada after the Commissioner’s CBA speech - more money, more power!

Read More
Oct 21, 2021