Watchdog cracking down on false comments
The law enforcement team of the city's market watchdog on Thursday has cracked down six companies suspected of organizing fake promotions for about 150 businesses with some 800,000 yuan (US$123,200) involved.
The companies were found to have been hiring people to make false comments or ratings online, the Shanghai Administration for Market Regulation said.
Officials made their judgment based on WeChat records, contracts and sales tables.
The practices violated consumer rights to make informed choices and disrupted fair competition, officials said.
"We received tip-offs from Dianping (an online dining review platform based in Shanghai) which found via its monitoring platform that six companies were suspected of making untrue comments," said Chen Zhizhen, an official with the law enforcement team.
Banana Lab, an information science and technology company in Jing'an District, was found to be hiring key opinion leaders online (KOL) to make comments and ratings praising restaurants on Dianping and rewarding them with cash.
"These good comments are not true and are fully based on the demand of these restaurants, the company's 'clients,' which misleads consumers and infringes their rights," said Chen.
"The investigation was based on relevant documents and the company was suspected of organizing fake promotions for catering businesses," said Yang Zhenyan, an investigator with the Putuo District Administration for Market Regulation. The company was registered in Putuo.
The money paid was based on the number of fans and active level of these KOL, he added.
Some KOL have 4,000 to 5,000 fans each and visited 30 to 40 restaurants per month based on requests.
The investigation is ongoing.