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Huawei got people to write fake reviews for an unreleased phone

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Maybe not the best move

Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

Huawei’s new flagship phone, the Mate 10 Pro, is available for pre-order in the US despite not having any deals with US carriers — so to get some attention, it seems the company has stooped to having fake reviews for the new phone planted online, as spotted by 9to5Google.

The fake reviews, which are exclusively on the Best Buy website, are likely the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook. On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. “Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page,” the post states.

Huawei Best Buy reviews
Image: 9to5Google

On the Best Buy site, there were 108 reviews for the phone, 103 of which were written on or after January 31st, the day Huawei posted the contest. Many of the comments directly reference not having any actual hands-on experience with the product itself, but give the phone a five star rating. “I can’t wait to get my hands on this phone and demonstrate how amazing it is to people,” reads one. “This device looks exciting and beautiful and it would be amazing to have a chance to beta test it,” another reads.

It seems Huawei is betting that loads of high ratings early on will make people trust the product and lead to higher sales. That’s all well and good except that these types of reviews are strictly against Best Buy policy, as 9to5Google points out. “We reserve the right not to post your review if it contains any of the following types of content or violates other guidelines,” the retailer states on its site. This includes “advertisements, ‘spam’ content, or references to other products, offers, or websites.” Many of these comments would seem to fall under the “advertisement” category, as they are contest entries and admit to having no real experience with the phone. It appears Best Buy has removed the reviews, but you can see screencaps of several of them on 9to5Google.

“Huawei’s first priority is always the consumer and we encourage our customers to share their experiences with our devices in their own voice and through authentic conversation,” a Huawei representative told The Verge in a statement. “While there are reviews from beta testers with extensive knowledge of the product, they were in no way given monetary benefits for providing their honest opinions of the product. However, we are working to remove posts by beta testers where it isn’t disclosed they participated in the review program.” No press outlets, as far as we can tell, insinuated that Huawei paid users to write the reviews.

Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro is entering the US market at a great disadvantage, with no carrier partnerships and a checkered past when it comes to questions about the cosecurity and trustworthiness. In the past, the company was sued by Cisco for stealing source code and faced accusations of spying for the Chinese government. Both AT&T and Verizon pulled out of deals to market and sell the Mate 10 Pro, and at CES, Huawei’s consumer products CEO commented on the carriers’ decisions, saying, “It’s a big loss for us, and also for carriers, but the more big (sic) loss is for consumers, because consumers don’t have the best choice. Everybody knows that in the US market that over 90 percent of smartphones are sold by carrier channels.”

Update February 13th, 12:28PM ET: The article has been updated to reflect that Best Buy has removed the reviews, and to include a statement from Huawei.