The State of New York has fined a plastic surgery company $300,000 (£183,000) for posting anonymous reviews about its services online.
Employees at Lifestyle Lift had posted positive reviews of the company on web sites and message boards, and in some cases had tried to get negative reviews taken down.
New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo said that the firm was guilty of deceptive commercial practices, false advertising, and fraudulent and illegal conduct.
"This company's attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative and illegal," he said. "My office has and will continue to be at the forefront in protecting consumers against emerging fraud and deception, including 'astroturfing', on the internet."
Lifestyle Lift also set up phoney web sites such as myfaceliftstory.com, which gave apparent reviews about its services. Management recruited staff to fill forum boards on these pages with positive reviews, as internal company emails revealed.
"Friday is going to be a slow day - I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client," read one message.
Another email directed a Lifestyle Lift employee to "put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had".
Cuomo is taking an increasingly aggressive stance on e-commerce issues. Dell was fined for fraud and false advertising in May last year, while Symantec and McAfee were forced last month to pay out $375,000 for fee abuse. Cuomo has also obliged internet service providers to police their content.
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