One of my pet peeves is the current state of how apps in the App Store get their review grades. As you probably know the system as it stands is simply set up to allow anyone to write about and rank an application as many times as they like. Nothing had been done to prevent fraud in the sense of app developers writing multiple high ball reviews, until now, kind of.
The Federal Trade Commissions office has satisfied a complaint against a California based PR group called Reverb Communications. It turns out that the company who have worked with several developers were having their employees posing as actual users, and having them write up glorified reviews of different applications…
“Astroturfing”” is the official title of sandbagging the review process (which for the record is a fabulous name if you ask me). Mac World cites Reverb owner, Tracie Snikter saying the following about the FTC agreement:
Rather than continuing to spend time and money arguing, and laying off employees to fight what we believed was a frivolous matter, we settled this case and ended the discussion because as the FTC states: ‘The consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute admission by the respondents of a law violation.
It’s hard to believe that if this was such a frivolous matter that any company would take a sanction handed down by the FTC, unless of course the punishment handed down doesn’t actually bring forth any real consequences. And that’s exactly what happened here.
The (so called) settlement requires Snikter and Reverb Communications to pull down any fraudulent reviews and to not write anymore. Neither the employees or games misrepresented will be named. There isn’t even a fine involved as long as the company isn’t caught doing the same acts again. I don’t know about you but this sounds like the weakest excuse for a consequence that I’ve ever heard of.
The future of the App Store review process is as uncertain as it has ever been. If you were the FTC, what sanctions would you have imposed on the fraudulent company? Let us know in our ethically sound comment box.