Sony Promises Not To Use Fake Reviews

PORTLAND, Ore. — In the first agreement of its kind since two Sony Pictures executives admitted using fake reviews to promote movies, the company promised Oregon officials Monday it would never again advertise in the state with fabricated reviews.

Oregon was one of several states to investigate the practice after the marketing executives admitted using reviews by imaginary film critic David Manning to market films including “A Knight’s Tale” and “The Animal.” The company temporarily suspended the executives.

In the pact signed Monday, Sony said it would either use quotes from actual reviews by professional film critics or admit that the people touting the film were studio employees.

“It’s a basic violation of our consumer protection laws and we thought, they have really gone over the line on this one,” said Jan Margosian, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office. “They always use puffery, but to fabricate somebody and put them up on a billboard and everything – that’s going too far.”

If the studio breaks the agreement, signed in Marion County Circuit Court, Sony could end up paying a $25,000 fine for each victim of marketing fraud, Margosian said. The agreement between Oregon and Sony ends the state’s investigation.

A spokesman for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. (SNE) in Culver City, Calif., declined to comment Monday.

After the David Manning discovery, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Artisan Entertainment and Universal Pictures admitted using employees or actors in TV commercials purporting to feature testimonials from moviegoers.

At least two moviegoers have filed their own lawsuits against Sony, saying they were deceived by false advertisements into paying to see bad films.

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