Bell Canada has agreed to pay a penalty of $1.25 million after
it encouraged its employees to post positive reviews of free
Bell mobile applications, the Competition Bureau has announced.
According to the consent
agreement, some Bell employees were encouraged to download and
use the "MyBell Mobile" and "Virgin Mobile My
Account" apps, and to give them a "5-star" rating
and positive customer review if they liked them. The reviews
appeared on the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store in
November. The employees did not disclose that they worked for Bell.
Bell's senior management acted quickly to remove the reviews
after they were alerted to them.
The apps allow Bell and Virgin Mobile customers to manage their
wireless accounts from their smartphones; they can check their
balance, make payments, view data usage, and manage pricing
The Bureau took the position that by failing to reveal that the
reviews were made by employees, Bell created the
materially false or misleading impression that the posts were
made by independent and impartial consumers. The posts had the
further effect of temporarily impacting the overall star
rating for the apps online.
In addition to the administrative monetary penalty, Bell is
required to develop a corporate compliance program, and will
also host a workshop on online advertising to promote, discuss
and enhance Canadians' trust in the digital economy, which will
include content relating to the integrity of online reviews.
The Bureau's investigation into the reviews of these free
apps commenced in December 2014.
A ten month investigation and a $1.25 million fine seems
disproportionate to Bell's conduct, which involved its
employees posting reviews of account management applications that
are given away for free, and are only useful to existing Bell
customers. No one was duped into paying money for a product that
didn't perform as advertised. We rate this one zero stars.
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The Canadian Competition Bureau issued a template document for use as a form of Consent Agreement, to be filed with the Competition Tribunal to resolve concerns the Bureau may have with proposed mergers.
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