Plastic Surgery Company Agrees To Pay $300,000 For Fake Customer Reviews

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

“Company Settles Case of Reviews It Faked” [New York Times]
Official press release by NY OAG [NY Office of the Attorney General]

RELATED
“Plastic Surgery Company Sues Consumer Site For Negative Customer Reviews”

Comments

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  1. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    Awww man. They were the only ones offering a buy one get one free boob lift. Now where am I to go?

  2. Radi0logy says:

    Does anyone else kinda want to tongue-kiss Cuomo? I wish I respected MY state’s AG…

  3. thebluepill says:

    yes this is dirty and underhanded.. but.. How is this illegal?

    • dadelus says:

      @thebluepill: False Advertising? Fraud? Funny that this is making it into the news just now since I just dealt with a similar circumstance from a carpet cleaning service. Chose them because they had rave reviews on google but got crappy service. When I went back to leave my own less then stellar review I checked the other reviewers and found that ALL but one or two of the reviewers had supposedly had the same company clean carpets in several states on the same day and used the exact same wording for every review.

    • dadelus says:

      @thebluepill: I should add though that a company that specializes in SURGERY leaving bogus reviews is MUCH worse then a carpet cleaning company doing it. Since, you know, they’re going to cut you.

  4. thebluepill says:

    Still though, what law has been broken?

  5. The Black Bird says:

    I wish Cuomo was our AG.

  6. INsano says:

    Looks like a case of fake implants.

  7. casey451 says:

    To one blue pill too many:

    It’s time to write a law. I believe free speech is worth dying for, and this stuff is commonly referred to as free speech. Of course it needs to be recategorized. Companies pushing their products, no matter in what way, must be held responsible for their claims. Actors in ads should be identified as such, with a notice that whatever he or she is saying may not in fact represent their experience with the product, if, in fact, they have any. Health claims MUST be run past the FDA which MUST enforce the laws already on the books about such things.

    Now, in the very likely event no legislator has the balls to start such a legal ruckus that will eventually involve the Supreme Court, I suggest the Better Business Bureau start flexing some muscle. A few companies (with balls) could run ads stating that their ads have been analyzed for truthfulness (NOT truthiness) and verifiability by the BBB, and the BBB, in return would allow these companies to display its logo or some other verifying bug. These companies would be free to challenge their competitors to do the same. We would have to depend on the BBB to fund itself properly to handle the workload, and our fellow citizens to PAY ATTENTION and throw their support to the BBB-approved companies. This is asking a LOT.

    In the absence of either of these solutions, we are stuck with the kind of decadent, self-serving, amoral conduct we see here and all day long everywhere we look. What a species!

  8. Joshua Sophy says:

    Read about a woman who received a $60 million legal award for her botched thigh lift: [www.newsinferno.com]