The New York Attorney General's Office recently announced a lawsuit against a New York-based home improvement contractor, alleging that the company used fake online reviews to promote its business. The NYAG obtained a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order that bans the company from operating its business and freezes its assets while the lawsuit is pending.
In its lawsuit, the NYAG alleged that the company used fake reviews on YellowPages.com and Yelp. The NYAG alleged that the owners of the company posted fake 5-star reviews and encouraged theirs friends to do the same. The NYAG also alleged that some customers actually engaged the company because of the false reviews they saw online.
When an advertiser posts content online, or incentives others to do it, and it's not going to be obvious to consumers that the advertiser is behind the content, the New York Attorney General, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, say that the relationship must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
“Consumers deserve to know that they can trust online reviews – not be deceived by the company itself,” said Attorney General Underwood. “Companies that seek to deceive New Yorkers will be held accountable by my office.”