August 29, 2010

PR Firm Settles Dispute With FTC Over iTunes

U.S. regulators said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that accused the firm of posting reviews on Apple's online iTunes store as unbiased videogame buyers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice.

"Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising," said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.

"Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers."

Last year, the commission said that anyone posting online endorsements or testimonials must disclose if they have connections to the sellers or are being compensated in any way for reviews.

California-based Reverb provides marketing and public relations services to videogame makers.

According to the FTC, Reverb posted reviews at iTunes about clients' games in ways that gave the impression the comments "were written by disinterested customers," between November 2008 and May of the following year.

The FTC said that Reverb failed to disclose that it was hired to promote the games and often received a percentage of sales.


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