Many things found on the internet may not be exactly what they
seem. Last week the Canadian Competition Bureau reminded us that
this truism has legal implications with regard to online
For some time the Canadian Competition Bureau has indicated that
it has concerns with respect to a number of on-line marketing
practices, including "flogging" ("fake
blogging") ― which involves people promoting a product
or service in blogs, without revealing ties to the supplier of the
product; and "astroturfing" ― purported grass roots
user reviews of products which are in fact supplied by persons
interested in the product rather than disinterested product
On October 14, 2015 the Competition Bureau announced it had
entered into a Consent Agreement with Bell Canada to resolve
concerns that certain Bell employees were encouraged to post
positive reviews and ratings of the "MyBell" mobile app
and the "Virgin My Account" app. The Bureau concluded
that these reviews and ratings created the general impression that
they were made by independent, impartial consumers, rather than by
Bell employees. The results of these reviews affected, for a time,
the overall ratings for the apps.
In resolving the Bureau's concerns Bell agreed to enhance
its corporate compliance program with a specific focus on
prohibiting ratings and rankings by its employees and contractors,
and also agreed to pay an Administrative Monetary Penalty of $1.25
While the Bureau has expressed concern about these practices for
some time, this is the first major enforcement action focused
specifically on the astroturfing issue. It is a timely reminder for
those who rely on online reviews of their products that care must
be taken to ensure that what purports to be an unbiased independent
review really is so.
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
The Commissioner of Competition addressed innovation, enforcement and policy initiatives at the Competition Bureau in his keynote speech, "Strengthening Competition: Innovation, Collaboration and Transparency."
Used car listing website operator CarGurus Inc.'s attempt to force rival Trader Corporation to supply it with vehicle listing data has encountered a dead end as the Competition Tribunal denied it leave to commence a private application under several provisions of the Competition Act.
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