****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?