Apple removed more than 1,000 apps by Chinese iPhone app developer Moniker from its store after finding out the company had faked product reviews. PC World has more:
The discovery of the phony reviews was made by a frequent reader of iPhoneography, known only as SCW, who recognized a similar erratic and poorly-written tone to many 5-star reviews of Molinker apps. SCW wrote a (long) letter to Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, revealing the major fraud. According to the e-mail, SCW “looked at 44 of the reviewers who posted reviews for this Molinker Inc app ‘NightCam Pro’ & EVERY Review except 2 of the 44+ are ALL FAKE 5 [star] reviews.”
The phony reviews didn’t stop there. SCW posits that Molinker employees obtained and redeemed promo codes in order to access the US App Store and publish an “endless slew of fake postings.” (Ever an opportunist, SCW also wrote: “I think I deserve a [sic] investigations reward for unearthing this blatant attempt at misleading & stealing from the public.”)
Schiller leapt to action and removed the apps. “Yes, this developer’s apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either,” Schiller wrote to SCW and iPhoneography.
Molinker claimed ignorance in a brief statement given to the appfreak blog. “We got [an] email from Apple yesterday [Sunday 6th] which told us our contract [has] changed to pending status. Actually, we do not know what’s wrong so far. We had contacted Apple for such sudden changes, hope we can get quick response and actions from Apple.”
Fake reviews, though perhaps not on this scale, are a frequent transgression in the App store. Users should know to click on reviewers’ profiles to check whether their ratings are trustworthy (for example, they always give five stars to products by a certain company, etc.). And Apple, by making an example of Molinker, showed developers that it won’t tolerate excessive levels of dishonesty. Developers will likely sneak in a few five-star reviews, but I imagine nobody will do it on a massive scale until they forget what happened to Molinker.