New York Settles With Firm Posting Fake Reviews
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has reached a settlement with cosmetic surgery firm Lifestyle Lift over the posting of fake consumer reviews online.
Under the settlement, Lifestyle Lift will stop posting anonymous positive reviews about the company to online forums and other websites. The company will pay $300,000 in fines and costs to the State of New York. According to the AG’s office the case is believed to be the first in the nation aimed at taking on astroturfing.
Lifestyle Lift employees posted positive reviews and comments about the company to trick people into believing that satisfied customers were posting their own stories. These tactics are deceptive commercial practices, false advertising, and fraudulent and illegal conduct under New York and federal consumer protection law.
"This company’s attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative, and illegal," said Attorney General Cuomo.
"My office has and will continue to be on the forefront in protecting consumers against emerging fraud and deception, including ‘astroturfing,’ on the Internet."
Internal emails discovered in the investigation show that Lifestyle Lift employees were given specific instructions to engage in this illegal activity. One email to employees read, "Friday is going to be a slow day – I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client."
In addition to posting on various Internet message board services, Lifestyle Lift also registered and created websites designed to appear if they were created by independent and satisfied customers of the company.
Under the settlement, Lifestyle Lift employees will no longer pretend to be consumers when posting on the Internet. The company will not promote services online without clearing disclosing it is responsible for the content.