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For Whom The Bell Mobility Tolls: Employee 5-Star App Reviews

****UPDATED OCTOBER 14, 2015****

The Canadian Competition Bureau announced that, among other things, Bell Canada will be fined $1.25 million for encouraging employees to leave reviews of their app. Also,  “Bell has indicated that it will sponsor and host a workshop to promote, discuss and enhance Canadians’ trust in the digital economy, including the integrity of online reviews.”

No word on if they will ask us to run the workshop 🙂 Now we wait for our next Bell bill, which may include an extra million dollar up charge.

We’re proud that this blog post initiated the investigation to show brands that integrity matters. It’s the first fine we know of for a company getting employees to plant reviews.

See our other comments on the story here.


I remember the day I gave an eBay seller a 1 star review. It was a lifetime ago, and I had bought a baseball card and it never arrived. I left a review reflecting my thoughts on it. The seller freaked out on me, saying I could ruin his business since it wasn’t a five-star review and it was apparently my fault.

Fast-forward to today and it seems everything now relies on 5-star or bust: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, the AppStore. I’ve always said if you make a good product/give great service, reviews are the most powerful marketing you could possibly hope for. If your offering is sub-par, well, it isn’t as pleasant.

Giant, publicly hated companies usually don’t stand a chance. Airlines, cable providers and cell phone companies liked it better when we just nodded and paid. But now that we have a voice, we’re letting it be heard.

Such was the case when up here in Canada, Bell Mobility (the cellular arm of Bell Canada, for which I am a customer) released their original app:


As you can see, the app is rated on average 2 stars by 2674 users (click on the picture to enlarge).

So, usually at this point, a company releases a new version, which sort-of wipes away the old reviews because the default display in the AppStore is the newest “version” of the app’s reviews, not “all reviews”. But not Bell Mobility. Notice the developer account is “Bell Mobility Inc.”? When they released a new version of the app last week, it was launched under “Bell Canada”:


Even more interesting? Look at the reviews!!!!! NICE!!! 4.5 stars average with 89 reviews! Sweet.

Then I started wondering…. who are these people sprinting to the AppStore to leave reviews about a cell phone company app, a few days after it was released? And why are they so happy?

Let’s take a look at what they’re saying (click on any of them to enlarge on mobile):


Awesome Mike! Wait, why are you so excited to pay your cell phone bill……… Clean design? User friendly? This guy must work in marketing…


Steph is a happy customer! Nice little Canadian passive-aggressive shot at it being much improved from the previous, totally unrelated version from “Not Bell Canada but Bell Mobility Inc”.


Charbel is loving the new…. wait a second…. you know what’s coming in future releases? Who the heck says future releases? No, more importantly, who uses the term “home phone services”??? Unless you work at a company that provides home phone services…


You know what makes me run to leave a review at the AppStore the day an app launches? Being able to manage my bills.


You’re not even feigning that you’re an actual customer now…


Ya! Well, love may be strong for an app that lets you pay your bill and look at usage, but, ya!



Comprehensive and cool? That’s it….. Let’s see who these people are with a LinkedIn search:

Mike McEnery – Associate Director at Bell.

Charbel Nassif – Performance Manager at Bell Canada

Steph Steen Marketing Manager at Bell

Vcaputo – Computer Applications Support Associate at Bell Canada

S Saade – IT Executive Bell Canada

Shelender68 – Shel Ender – IT at Bell Canada

Tori Brown – Senior Project Manager at Bell

Not only do they all seem like Bell Canada employee reviews, they have all been voted “Helpful” so they come to the top of the default review listing. All of these profiles have either reviewed only this app, or two apps, the other being Virgin Mobile’s new app, launched on the same day. Could it be a coincidence that all these people just share the same names as Bell Canada employees? Of course  I doubt it. Hopefully someone has an email floating around out there instructing people to review it the day it came out? Maybe that somebody would like to send it our way?? Astroturfing, it’s not just for athletes any more.

Here are some actual non-employee reviews, buried at the bottom:


Not only is this not ethical (either reviewing your own company app, or not disclosing it) it also breaks every review site rule or TOS.

What do you think?




  • Well, this is just awkward.

    If it was one person, I’d say it was a coincidence. But 7? Something smells fishy here, and it makes me wonder if there was an internal communication sent out to encourage “users” to rate the app positively.

    If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck…

    • tgoyer

      … Bell thinks it’s a camel.

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  • Julie Tallard Johnson

    Thank you for exposing this. What a crazy world we live in. We need an app to detect fakes.

    • n8brophy

      I will only create this app if you give me a 5-star review.

  • dave

    Thank you for taking the time to do some Batmanning with the detective work. I wonder how many apps do this that we’re not aware of because no one takes the time to do the research!

  • Keith DuPree

    Self-fluff reviews remove all the efficacy of the review process. Fast forward and we’ll see customers making their decisions on the best ‘worst’ review.

  • Autumn Kindelspire

    Hey guys, people seem to hate our product. Should we change it? No way! Let’s just yell louder that we’re awesome. That’ll work. (Facepalm)

  • Jennifer Kent

    The false promise of a new and better app only makes customers angry when they find out it is a lie…worsened by the fact that they were tricked by fake reviews as well. Did they think people wouldn’t notice?

  • Angela Runnals

    Good detective work! Bell Mobility loses a lot of credibility with this stunt.

  • Jimbo

    In the US, would this violate FTC rules on testimonials?

    • Joshua Michael Friedman


  • Deborah Turner-Davis

    Bell. Why are we surprised? The single worst corporate ethics and customer service of any organization I have ever been beholden to in my life. Damned contract… another year to go.

  • Joel Robert.

    My eyes hurt… I’m going to try and unsee this. Shame on ma Bell.

  • Bell lover, NOT!

    I say let the good folks at Marketplace on CBC do a story on this. It would be fun to watch Bell try to wiggle out of this one

    • rodriguez247

      I’ve forwarded the link to them already. 🙂

      • Trevor Neuman

        Let me suggest that CBC gets too much ad revenue from Bell Canada to alienate a valued client.

  • I wouldn’t make too much of the “Bell Mobility Inc.” vs. “Bell Canada”. Bell’s been phasing out their sub-brands, e.g. Bell ExpressVu is now Bell TV, and Bell Sympatico is now Bell Internet. I’ve noticed as a customer that “Mobility” has also been gradually disappearing for years.

    • It’s more that it’s really “convenient” 😉

      • My point stands. The name change is likely just part of the ongoing retirement of the sub-brands, and not an attempt to hide anything.

        • RobCanuck

          I’d have to check in iTunes, but I bet the vendor name change also prevents reviews of the previous version from appearing when one clicks on “All versions” when browsing reviews. Perhaps not an intentional goal on Bell’s part, but would could be seen as a bonus side-effect.

  • Carmen

    So at a former company who I might be willing to discuss privately but not on the Interwebs, we did get emails asking us to go review our own app. I always cringed. And never did it. But now I’m always leery of the authenticity of reviews.

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  • Kasey

    Is anyone actually surprised by this? It’s Bell Canada we are talking about here. I wonder what the reviews say about their customer service? I bet it’s a gold mine for “amazing” reviews.

  • David Christopher

    Awesome detective work – and thanks for exposing these underhanded tactics by Bell. We’ve just posted about this to amplify the message – it will certainly be interesting to see how Apple responds:

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  • Mary Koster

    This is exactly the reason I don’t look at the first few reviews of any app. I always dig deeper. This illustrates just how important that is, especially in this day and age where companies don’t abide by ethical marketing tactics…

    • That’s a great point that I will take to heart. I think most people just look at the first few reviews, as I have usually done in the past. I will be digging deeper now.

  • This is so marketing. Push the message, pull the levers. If there were true competition in the (wireless) marketplace, a 5 person team of smart growth hackers would take the business away in less than a year.

  • Yikes! In the age where anyone can use Google, it surprises me that this kind of behaviour is still going on.

  • Graham Scott

    I think it is fine to review your employers products, but disclose your interest. I often appreciate the perspective of someone who will review a product early and has the “motivation” to go into depth etc., but just say that you work for the company.

  • The IT Department is Astroturfing

  • Yeah…and Bell should probably not use sales copy and hints about future releases in the reviews either. If you’re gonna be dishonest, you could at least try harder to look natural! Haha!

  • Dave

    you guys realize that Bell employees are also customers who make use of their products right? Conspiracy!!!! Try finding a real story you bonehead.

    • ron tite

      Sure, they’re customers. But they’re customers with a clear bias. Posting reviews for their own personal gain (promotion, raises) or organizational benefit is unequivocally unethical. Quite possibly, it’s a corporate culture that either encourages this behaviour or ignores it altogether. Regardless, this IS a story and I applaud Scott for calling them out. The only boneheads are those who think this is acceptable, Dave.

    • Salinger

      I’m sure chefs and servers also eat in their own restaurant. Would you think it’s legitimate for a chef who creates the meals, and servers who get tips based on their service to give glowing reviews to their own restaurant?

  • Ex-Bell

    I used to work at Bell, in digital. I can see this happening. 😉 The culture is toxic and voice of reason is typically ignored by old school execs.

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  • D Coach

    Do I have to check out who’s leaving comments here for you Scott? Any family members? Lol. Jk.

  • Seriously great detective work. We covered your findings on our site.

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  • Darren

    It’s evidently gotten even worse. They’ve apparently found a way to do away with those bad reviews altogether, so now the app only shows 5-star reviews. I’m not sure if it’s different to actually view it IN iTunes, but from the website, it’s all fraud.

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  • Edgypotter

    Thank you for investigating this and exposing the unethical practice that some companies are using.

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  • Im surprised they didn’t stop to think that these types of things can be revealed with just a quick google search.

  • Well just why you don’t go to companies who are bell dealers and provide bell mobility customer service like Cellcom Communication does or others.

  • As a customer of Bell Mobility I will not agree. It has proved its credibility many times.

  • sema

    I’ve heard some other companies, especially in the tourism industry, doing similar unethical “stunts.” They are not only misleading consumers, but are also diverting the data that is supposed to be “user-generated” from its primary intention: impartiality. I hope digital precautions (apps, specific software, or even cookies on websites-I have no clue whether cookies could be designated for such purposes, but still, it’s just an idea) could be developed before consumers like us start losing faith in reviews. Thank you for the enlightening post!

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  • Over all Nice post but quite confused. But, some are not of my type. But, thanks for sharing your views.