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N Cal Attorney
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 8134
Experience:  Since 1983
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Hi, I am a developer for a popular app on the iPhone. It has

Resolved Question:

Hi,
I am a developer for a popular app on the iPhone. It has been our bread and butter for nearly two years. Since the beginning, we have dealt with competing developers writing poor reviews of our app to try to boost theirs. Recently, the issue has gotten much worse. At this point it feels like slander.

Here is what has happened most recently. First of all, we have been top Healthcare and Fitness app on iTunes since the beginning of the app store in 2008. The competing app was released around the same time. Our current version has nearly a five star average, with nearly every person raving about the app. We woke up this morning to a list of one-star, scathing reviews for the app. The person states over and over that our app is horrible, that we pay people to write fake good reviews, and other slanderous statements. They follow-up by clicking "yes" over and over (20 times) that the review is "helpful". In other words, this bumps all of our good reviews to where no one can see them, and all of these horrible reviews are at the top.

This app is what sustains our company. When something like this happens, it is not just hurtful, it effects us financially. Just in a matter of hours, our app that had been stable around #10 for months is now #17 and falling. In the app store, a move like this can prove fatal to an app. Customers rely on the reviews and ratings of others.

The only proof that we have that these people are behind all the fake reviews is that in one they mention their app. Other than that, it is a history with them, and one very hateful email from them over a year ago that makes us know in our gut that it is them. Apple must have a record of who each of their "sock-puppets" really is. To sign up for an account on iTunes, you must use a valid credit card and address, and hence, a valid name. Once you sign up, you can use any nickname you want, which is what they do, over and over. If you read one of our reviews, and click on the reviewer's name, you can see what other reviews that person has written. On each of these unfair reviews, you can see that the person has only reviewed one app - ours. This is unlikely for any reviewer to only ever review one app.

We don't know what to do about this. We have "complained" to Apple about each individual review, hoping they will be removed, but it has not happened. I think Apple is too overwhelmed to try and battle these "petty" battles. But at this point, it is our livelihood and stake. Is this slander? Can we prove anything? What can we do to make this stop? Again, this is only the most recent incident that I describe.

Thank you for your time.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 4 years ago.
I believe you may be able to sue those people based on the unfair competition and unfair business practices laws in California, as well as for disparaging your product. It is not exactly slander but it is similar.

May I ask what your location in California is, and do you have an attorney yet?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
We are in Felton, California, which is near San Jose (Silicon Valley). We do not have an attorney yet. Another note is that one of the recent reviews that I mentioned falsely states that we must pay people to write all of our five-star reviews and that we "should be shot".

Thank you for your help.
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 4 years ago.
http://www.nolo.com/ldir/browsebyresults.do?specialtyId=3&specialtyName=Business%20Law&locationId=28&searchNear=Felton,%20CA
and
http://lawyers.findlaw.com/lawyer/firm/Business-&-Commercial-Law/Felton/California
are directories of business law attorneys who practice in that area, some of whom offer a free consultation.

California has a very broad definition of what constitutes "unfair competition":
BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE SECTION
17200. As used in this chapter, unfair competition shall mean and
include any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice
and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising and any act
prohibited by Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17500) of Part 3 of
Division 7 of the Business and Professions Code.
From
http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=bpc&group=17001-18000&file=17200-17210

What you described sounds like unfair competition.

Stating that you should be shot verges on a threat in violation of federal law, see
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00000875----000-.html
and is probably also a form of unfair competition, as is posting fake reviews of your app.

I urge you to consult a local business lawyer who handles unfair competition cases, and I would have an attorney notify the iTunes App Store that it is intolerable to allow a post advocating that you be shot to remain on the web.

I hope this information is helpful.
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 8134
Experience: Since 1983
N Cal Attorney and 8 other Business Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for accepting my answer.

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