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Canada gets tough on fakery as Bell Canada gets fined for posting fake Play Store reviews

Anyone familiar with smartphone apps knows that the best way to get noticed for your apps is, well, to receive good reviews for them. Bell Canada took that creed a little too close to heart as the Canadian telecom company was hit with a $1.25 million CAD ($970,719) fine for posting fake reviews of its apps, reports The Globe and Mail.

According to the outlet, several of Bell’s employees were “encouraged” to post positive reviews of the MyBell Mobile and Virgin My Account apps, both of which belong to Bell, in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. UnMarketing president Scott Stratten discovered that numerous such reviews had been posted by marketing managers, project managers, and IT executives who worked for Bell Canada.

Related: Amazon’s had enough of fake reviews on its site, files lawsuit

For the most part, the two applications received abysmal reviews in both app stores, with users complaining of everything from the lack of landscape support to the app simply not loading at all. The Bell employee reviews, by contrast, gave both MyBell Mobile and Virgin My Account five-star ratings, skyrocketing both apps’ standings in the App Store and the Play Store. Eventually, Canada’s Competition Bureau stepped in and declared Bell Canada guilty of rogue behavior, resulting in the aforementioned fine.

According to Bell Canada director of communications and social media Paolo Pasquini, the company isn’t in the business of having its employees give positive reviews of its apps. “The postings were the result of an overzealous effort on the part of our service team to highlight the app,” said Pasquini. “It’s certainly not Bell’s practice to encourage employees to rate our products, and we’re sending a clear message out to the team to that effect.”

Apparently, that message will include enhancing and maintaining “its corporate compliance program,” which will also inform employees to not review Bell Canada’s apps. Bell Canada will also be forced to kick off a workshop to “enhance Canadians’ trust in the digital economy.” The company should be lucky it got away with just a fine and not have to face a lawsuit.