Games PR firm Reverb Communications, and its sole owner Tracie Snitker, have been ruled against by the US Federal Trade Commission after employees were discovered to have been submitting reviews of Reverb's clients' products to iTunes, purporting to be independent consumers.
The ruling means that Reverb, which has represented Harmonix and Cryptic Studios, will be forced to remove all of its employees' reviews, banning any of the company's representatives from posting any further reviews unless they fully disclose their connection to the product and its owners.
"Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising," said Mary Engle, director of the FTC’s advertising practices division.
"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."
Reverb's business model involved the company receiving a percentage of the income from its clients' sales, which means that the company falls foul of FTC rules introduced last year, stating that: "an online post by a person connected to the seller, or someone who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product or service, should disclose the material connection the reviewer shares with the seller of the product or service. "