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FTC makes ruling in iTunes review case

The Federal Trade Commission, of all things, has laid down a ruling in the strange case of Reverb Communications' iTunes reviews. We didn't get to this story the first time around, but a PR firm named Reverb Communications (disclaimer: I've attended their press events here in LA) was accused a while back of asking its staff to leave positive iTunes reviews on some of their clients' App Store titles. This wasn't just a request to have the staff try out and review client games -- they had an "internal user reviews" process, in which employees of the firm were paid specifically to leave positive reviews -- "not over the top" were their words -- on iTunes and online message boards.

Now, the Federal Trade Commission, ruling under the recent regulations for endorsements online, has decided to settle the case. No money is changing hands, but Reverb and its executive have been asked to remove all of the reviews posted. You can read more about the agreement on the FTC's website. The FTC says that anyone endorsing a product online "should disclose the material connection the reviewer shares with the seller of the product or service," and that Reverb didn't do that.

For its part, Reverb and executive Tracy Snitker would like to brush the accusations off. "Rather than continuing to spend time and money arguing, and laying off employees to fight what we believed was a frivolous matter, we settled this case and ended the discussion," she told the New York Times. But this ruling seems more important than that -- it's the FTC's first enforcement of the Internet review guidelines, and so we'll have to see what kinds of precedents this case sets.

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