Digital Brain
digital brain
digital brain

Astroturfing: What’s Real Online

October 2015 Competition and Marketing & Advertising Bulletin 2 minute 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

Insights (5 Posts)

Featured Insight

Certified Today, Dismissed Tomorrow: Ontario Court Dismisses Automotive Class Action after Successful Certification

An Ontario court has dismissed a proposed class action against an automobile manufacturer on the merits for alleged false claims after certification.

Read More
Jun 29, 2022
Featured Insight

Forecast 2022: Expected Changes to the Canadian Patent Rules (Part 2)

Canadian patent practices related to "excess claim fees" and RCEs come into force on October 3, 2022. Is your business ready?

Read More
Jun 29, 2022
Featured Insight

Round One of Competition Act Amendments Passed; National Security Review Regime Amended

New amendments to the Competition Act were passed today as part of the budget implementation bill.

Read More
Jun 27, 2022
Featured Insight

Privacy Reform is on the Table Once More: Canada Introduces the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022

New federal privacy legislation has been introduced. If passed, Bill C-27 will materially change the legal landscape for privacy and data protection in Canada.

Read More
Jun 22, 2022
Featured Insight

Plan for the Ban: Canada Announces Timeline for Single-Use Plastics Prohibition

Canada's final Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations have been published and come into effect on December 20, 2022

Read More
Jun 22, 2022