The legality of buying positive reviews to boost app sales

The topic of buying positive reviews is hotly debated. Now the discussion has engulfed Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

The legality of buying positive reviews to boost app sales ©-jehafo-Fotolia

The legality of buying positive reviews to boost app sales ©-jehafo-Fotolia

Buying positive reviews

Apple’s “App Store” has around 900,000 apps to purchase, with Google’s “Play Store” following close behind.

According to recent reports, 1% of the available apps account for 50% of downloads. Ranking therefore plays a huge role in influencing the purchasing behaviour of consumers.

It has been suggested that some developers may have purchased positive reviews in order to boost their app sales. However, this cannot be proven for certain.

The effects of purchasing positive reviews and ratings should not be over-estimated. There is always a danger that consumers recognise that an on online business has purchased the review or rating and react with corresponding negative reviews. For this reason alone, online businesses should avoid using such strategies.

Unfair competition

If receiving negative feedback is not enough to discourage an online business, it should be borne in mind that positive reviews and ratings which are purchased are considered surreptitious advertising. The advertising character of the review or rating is concealed and this breaches § 4(3) of the German Unfair Competition Act.

Advice to users

As far as users are concerned, it is advisable for them to be wary of apps which receive 5 star ratings after only being on the market for a very short time. And while reviews can often be more conclusive, they should always be assessed in their context to see if they are plausible.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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