Cosmetic Surgery Company 'Fesses Up To Widespread Campaign Of Fake Reviews; Pays Fine

from the some-questions-though... dept

The NY Times has an article about how LifeStyle Lift, a company that does cosmetic surgery (facelifts) has reached a settlement with NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over posting fake reviews on its site. It wasn't just a case of some "rogue" employees posting some fake positive reviews, either. The company apparently sent out emails to employees telling them to "devote the day to doing more postings on the Web as a satisfied client." It also created its own fake facelift review websites that (of course) reflected positively on themselves. The company has apologized and agreed to pay $300,000.

Now, it's clear that the company was doing a bad thing here, but there are some questions raised about this. Eric Goldman, who also notes that the company previously had sued a review site that had many negative reviews for trademark infringement (a clear misuse of trademark law to stifle free speech), points out that it's unclear what law was actually broken here. Andrew Cuomo claims that what the company did was illegal, but doesn't point to any specific law that says so. We've seen this before from Cuomo, who has publicly accused companies of breaking the law, without ever naming the law in question.

That said, it's clear in this case that LifeStyle Lift was a bad actor. The question is how to deal with it. Goldman suggests that review sites and consumers should deal with this themselves:
Ultimately, I believe the burden should largely rest on review websites to provide a forum that is sufficiently game-resistant that consumers can trust the information on the website.... In my opinion, the only real "solution" to fake consumer reviews is to teach consumers proper techniques for searching for information and evaluating the credibility of the information they consume. This is one of those crucial life-coping skills that everyone needs to learn at an early age, right up there with the three Rs and how to manage money. Education is the only scalable answer to the problems of information credibility in our complex information society.
For the most part, I agree... though I do wonder if there's potential to make a claim that the practices violate truth in advertising type laws or other consumer protection laws on deceptive practices. Of course, I would assume that it would then be an issue for the FTC, rather than the NY Atotorney General's office.

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  1. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 17 Jul 2009 @ 9:42am

    Re: Gee, I don't know...

    I think Consumer Fraud would be the particular statute. Tried looking it up at the following site, but it seems to be kinda obsessed with A. The Internet, and B. Identity Theft, which is odd, since it's a federal website (Though the posting I was looking at is over 2 years old).

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/01/topten.shtm

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