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Federal Trade Commission Settles Charges Over Fake App Store Reviews

According to The New York Times, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled a case it brought against California-based public relations firm Reverb Communications for writing paid reviews of App Store games from their clients. The firm's actions had been profiled by MobileCrunch last August after receiving a tip about its practices.

The Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday that a California marketing company had settled charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having its employees write and post positive reviews of clients' games in the Apple iTunes Store, without disclosing that they were being paid to do so.

The charges were the first to be brought under a new set of guidelines for Internet endorsements that the agency introduced last year. The guidelines have often been described as rules for bloggers, but they also cover anyone writing reviews on Web sites or promoting products through Facebook or Twitter.

While the settlement did not involve any monetary penalties, Reverb is required to remove all of its paid reviews and to refrain from making similar endorsements in the future without disclosing its relationships with companies whose products it is promoting.

Reverb apparently continues to believe that it did nothing wrong, calling the charges a "frivolous matter" while noting that it settled the case without financial penalty or admission of lawbreaking so that it would not have to devote time and money to defending itself.