So you're on your favourite MMO forums and you just read the latest post from Stryker87, a regular contributor on such topics as the etiquette of raiding and the importance of a good supporting healer. This time, though, Stryker87 is going on about his new video card (or possibly his monitor) and he's recommending that everyone get one. Hmmm, you think, well if Stryker87 likes it, it must be pretty good, right?
Stryker87 might be on the level, or he may in fact be a made-up persona, used to hype products on message boards. The practice of first building up on-line personas and then subtly pushing a product on other message board members has been raised in several recent on-line articles dealing with the video game industry. Leaving aside the ethical arguments over promoting a product in this way, any company doing so should definitely consider the potential legal consequences.
The Ontario Consumer Protection Act, 2002 (the 'CPA"?), for example, makes it an unfair trade practice to make a representation that misrepresents the purpose or intent of any solicitation of or any communication with a customer. Unfair trade practices are prohibited and, under the CPA, a corporation convicted of engaging in an unfair trade practice can be fined up to $250,000. Of note, the CPA specifies that officers and directors of a corporation can also be liable and, if convicted, face fines up to $50,000 and a potential jail term of not more than two years less a day.