A marketing company in America has been rapped by the Federal Trade Commission for publishing reviews of its clients' games on iTunes. The organisation, Reverb Marketing, has issued a statement suggesting it regarded the matter as trivial and didn't want to spend ages fighting this sort of lawsuit. We haven't put a link to its website in this instance because it was down as this story was being written; that could of course be coincidence.

The ruling follows a change to FTC guidelines this year in which it has come out against companies or their agencies posing as ordinary members of the public.

The issue isn't trivial, but it's not something the FTC should need to be involved in. In early 2009 Belkin was caught putting positive reviews on Amazon - the story of employer Michael Bayard and his doing so is on this link.

What interested many people in this instance was not that a company had done such a thing, not even that a rogue employee would do it, but that the business absolved itself from so much responsibility. Like the case of furniture maker Habitat and Twitter in which Habitat hijacked hashtags pointing to Iran and human rights abuses to sell sofas, the company denied this was company policy. In other words they took the person who'd had the idea and hung them out to dry. You could argue that it would be more sensible to revise the training program - if someone's doing something wrong and you're their manager, you're responsible.

Meanwhile the FTC can say what it wants about people posting fake reviews online. The fact is that the recipient of the fake reviews will find their reputation suffers once the story emerges. The real story, frankly, isn't that Reverb faked a few reviews; it's that either the games are so poor or the marketing is so lame they can't drum up any real ones.

About the Author

Author, 'This Is Social Media' (Capstone Publishing 2009); freelance journalist in the UK for the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Independent and others.

Marketing level:-1