Thursday, October 24, 2013

Samsung fined $340K for faked negative forum posts about rival HTC

Samsung isn't the first company to fake reviews, and it certainly won't be the last. Still, coming on the heels of reports of the company doctoring benchmarks (1, 2), this certainly isn't welcome news for the world's largest manufacturer of cell phones. On Thursday, The Verge reported that Samsung had been slapped with a $340,000 fine for faking positive reviews of itself, as well as negative ones for rival HTC.

In April of this year, Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC, but not our Federal Trade Commission) opened an investigation into Samsung's marketing practices. Specifically, the FTC alleged that Samsung hired writers and paid employees to spotlight its positives and HTC's negatives.

In the FTC's decision, the commission said that the allegations were borne out by its investigation. Samsung, it said used a "large number of hired writers and designated employees" to post in Taiwanese forums. To be clear, though, two local marketing firms were also involved in the misguided marketing scheme, and they were fined a combined total of more than $100,000 for their portion of the strategy.

This sort of fakery is known as "astroturfing."

Earlier this year the FTC fined Samsung slightly more than $10,000 for misleading advertising about the camera functionality of its Galaxy Y Duos (GT-S6102) Android smartphone.

On a slightly different note, in early October the company was found inflating the benchmark scores on its Galaxy Note 3 phablet by "optimizing" the system when any of a number of benchmarks were being run.

As we said, this isn't the first time review fakery has occurred, and it won't be the last. In what was hardly the first instance of "astroturfing," in 2009, Belkin was caught posting fake reviews at

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