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If you are going to take user reviews seriously, you have to account for the possibility that a significant portion of the general population may be comprised of idiots.

People misusing the star system is a problem, but the real problem is that we are forced to care when people misuse it.

(To correct this specific problem, I would recommend low-tolerance hellbanning. If a positive review is accompanied by a one-star rating, that user's ratings and comments will never be seen by another user again.)

Are developers on the play store allowed to delete reviews? That sounds like something that would be really easily abused (i.e. delete all bad reviews of your bad product).

There is no option on the developer console for this afaik. If there is it is not prominent or easily discovered.

However, I saw a small burst of bad reviews on an app I used to work on a few months back - all of those reviews including the developer replies are now 'missing'.

Its possible they merely flagged the reviews and Google got rid of them because they were rude. Possibly the OPs removed them because the developer got in contact to ease their pain somehow...

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