Over a year ago, we wrote about Lifestyle Lift and its attempts to astroturf a customer review website (while simultaneously suing that website for trademark infringement, naturally). But then they caught the attention of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office, and now they’ve agreed to pay $300,000 and will stop publishing fake reviews online.
Cuomo’s office says that Lifeystyle Lift’s president believed negative customer reviews were hurting the company’s reputation, so instead of addressing the source of the dissatisfaction he explicitly ordered employees to go forth and plant fake reviews:
Internal emails discovered by Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation show that Lifestyle Lift employees were given specific instructions to engage in this illegal activity. One e-mail to employees said: “Friday is going to be a slow day – I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client.” Another internal email directed a Lifestyle Lift employee to “Put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had.”
We like Cuomo’s own review of the company business practices: “cynical, manipulative and illegal.”
Update: We spoke with the president of RealSelf.com this morning to find out what happened to the trademark lawsuit, as well as to the counter suit RealSelf filed against Lifestyle Lift for posting fake reviews on its site. RealSelf responded:
Both lawsuits were settled out of court in March 2008. The terms were confidential, but the settlement had no impact on our ability to enable an open and unbiased discussion about the Lifestyle Lift. Consumers continue to share their Lifestyle lift experiences and reviews.
The current ratings (http://www.realself.com/Lifestyle-lift/reviews) indicate 36% of consumers considered their Lifestyle Lift procedure worth it.
Just as an interesting side note, you may want to look at this site, an example of their phony patient sites alluded to by the AG (that appears to be their response to RealSelf): http://web.archive.org/web/20080213084517/http://www.cosmetictoday.com/index.html