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Inflating App Scores Costs Bell $1.25 Million in Fines

October 14, 2015 - Written By Cory McNutt

Bell seems to enjoy taunting Canada’s regulatory bodies this past year – earlier this year Canada’s Privacy Commissioner provided a scathing report on Bell’s Relevant Advertising program.  Daniel Therrien, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, said in a press release at the time, “Bell’s ad program involves the use of vast amounts of its customers’ personal information, some of it highly sensitive.  Bell should not simply assume that, unless they proactively speak up to the contrary, customers are consenting to have their personal information used in this new way.”  Although no fines could be issued, Bell cleaned up its act by changing their policies.  Bell’s latest run-in will cost them $1.25 million for encouraging or incentivizing certain employees to write positive reviews for their MyBell Mobile app in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.

In November 2014, the glowing reviews for MyBell Mobile app and Virgin My Account app began showing up in the two app stores, written by users without disclosing that they worked for Bell.  In Bell’s defense, they quickly removed the reviews and ratings as soon as they were made aware of the matter – it seems that it must have been the brainstorm of several Bell employees, not something that was mandated by Bell, itself.  Bell indicated it will be sponsoring a workshop to educate, promote, discuss and enhance Canadian’s trust in the integrity of online reviews.

The Bureau determined that these reviews were written to create the impression that they were made by independent and impartial consumers.  John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition said, “I am pleased that Bell Canada demonstrated leadership to fully resolve the Competition Bureau’s concerns in this matter. Bell’s senior management acted quickly to remove the reviews of the apps that had been posted by its employees and has taken steps to prevent it from happening again.  I commend the shared compliance approach taken by Bell to resolve this matter, which will benefit both consumers and the digital marketplace.” Many consumers use these reviews to make informed decisions and reviews that are not impartial and independent can adversely affect the true number of downloads of apps.  If you are ever aware of any false reviews, the Competition Bureau would like you to report them.