Cuomo Goes After Lifestyle Lift for “Astroturfing” its Products

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If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s not OK to lie.

Increasingly, the FTC is going digital-rambo against false advertisers, and the states are following (law)suit. Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetics company has just settled with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for publishing fake reviews about its cosmetic facelift process.

According to documents filed by the attorney general, Lifestyle Lift got employees to post anonymous product and service reviews on websites owned by third parties, making it appear that the reviews were made by genuine product users.

In addition to violating Section 5 of the FTC Act, which proscribes the use of deceptive advertising tactics to sell products to consumers, such conduct also violates many state laws on unfair business practices and false advertising. Cuomo, in a press conference, called the activity “cynical, manipulative, and illegal.” Cuomo would be right.

In fact, reviews are identical in every legal measure to testimonials, where the law is clear: any positive testimonial provided by consumers must be (1) truthful; (2) authorized by the manufacturer of the product; and (3) and must reflect the “typical” experience of a product user. Thus, even if a consumer is telling the truth about a product, if that truth either is not supported by scientific studies, or does not reflect the average customer experience (and therefore distorts the product’s worthiness), such a review is considered false advertising.

As many following the advertising world know, back in April, the FTC announced it will be going after companies who pay others to create viral and influential websites about the benefits of the companies’ products if information on those sites is not truthful.

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