Edmunds.com, the popular car-shopping website, is the latest company to take legal action against fake reviews.
The company has issued a news release explaining its lawsuit against Humankind Design, a marketing company based in Friendswood, Texas, for “fraud and breach of the Edmunds.com membership agreement.”
Edmunds, which says it manually screens every auto dealer review submitted to its site, claims that Humankind tried to register more than 2,000 accounts and used them to post fake reviews. An Edmunds’ spokesperson tells TIME magazine that the fake reviews from Humankind began in January and an internal investigation found that they were all coming from the same place. Many of the fake accounts haven’t been used yet, Edmunds says. To date, the company has detected 76 reviews and blocked each one, TIME reports.
Justin Anderson, the owner of Humankind, told Automotive News, “I can say that we completely disagree with the assertion that we are posting fraudulent reviews online.”
Anderson is also currently listed as the domain registrant for HKSEO.us and Glowing Reviews.co. The latter company’s FAQ page says it submits reviews to 15 sites, including Edmunds.com (as well as Google+, Yelp, Yahoo Local and others). It also includes a concession that its tactics violate the TOS of those target sites:
In general, the review sites state that you must be posting for yourself and not for someone else. So in these cases the answer would be yes.
GlowingReviews has also posted a three-minute video about its service, claiming that it “works with” the major reviews sites and that it has “thousands of aged social accounts created specifically to post reviews.”
In its news release, Edmunds says that it’s sharing a copy of the lawsuit with the 15 sites listed on GlowingReviews’ website. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Humankind as well as unspecified financial damages.
Just about a month ago, Yelp filed a similar suit against a different company, buyonlinereviews.net, that was allegedly selling fake reviews for about $25 each.
Postscript, July 25: A reader points out that the Glowing Reviews website (glowingreviews.co) is now offline. Via email, Justin Anderson gave us this explanation:
On advice of counsel we took down the site. While we believe it is a valuable service that reduces the friction for consumers connecting with online review sites, Edmunds clearly disagreed and filed suit. We strongly believe that sharing customer reviews online is a very important aspect to managing an online reputation. And of course those reviews need to be real and accurate to follow the law.