Sony Pays $325,000 Settlement Over Fake Reviews13 Mar, 2002 By: Hive News
In an epilogue to the fake movie review flap that arose last summer after it came to light that Sony Pictures Entertainment incorporated comments from a nonexistent film reviewer and shill moviegoers into ads, the company has agreed to pay a $325,0000 fine in Connecticut and end the practices.
"These deceptive ads deserve two thumbs down -- and now are getting a third from Sony itself," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumnthal, who investigated Sony for alleged violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.. "Sony deserves credit for acting to prevent this type of deception. But the whole industry may need a reality check. Deceptive ads designed to lure moviegoers, have no legitimate place in the entertainment business. Delusion belongs on the big screen, not in the ads."
The investigation began when Newsweek reported that Sony quoted nonexistent critic David Manning, attributing his comments to a small, but real, newspaper, the Ridgefield (CT) Press. The glowing tributes plugged Sony films including A Knights Tale and The Animal.
It was reported later that the real Manning is a friend of a Sony staffer and the son of a former Ridgefield selectwoman.
"What Sony did was like having a chef pose as a food critic and then give his own restaurant four stars," said the state's Consumer Protection Commissioner, James Fleming. "Consumers spend millions of dollars attending movies each year, and many consumers base their selection of a film on critics' reviews… Consumers expect movie critics to be independent of the film producers."
Following the revelation from Sony and disciplinary action against two of its executives, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures also admitted they engineered fake testimonials to plug their films.