News

Bogus Online Reviews face EU Ban
Pincet Masons international law firm, out-law.com, 2/15/07

Business people who write fake reviews of their own products will fall foul of new European laws in 2008. Laws banning businesses from misleading consumers will bar the act, protecting consumers who increasingly rely on online reviews.

Trade Association Proposed to Represent Ratings Websites
Sarah Colombo, USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review, 5/10/2007

An online entrepreneur wants publishers of rating and review websites to band together to fight legal action against their sites.

Opinion Poll Shows 8 out of 10 US Shoppers Put More Trust in Brands that Offer Customer Reviews
Bazaarvoice Inc, 7/23/07

Bazaarvoice, the market and technology leader in hosted social commerce applications that drive sales, and Vizu Corporation, the company democratizing market research, today announced a benchmark survey on current attitudes towards customer ratings and reviews. Results show that approximately 80 percent of US shoppers place more trust in brands that offer customer ratings and reviews.

Online Reviews Influence Purchasing Decisions
Deloitte Consumer Products Group, 10/01/07

Deloitte Study show 2/3 of consumers check online rating, and 80% of those user say reviews affect purchase decisions.

Online Consumer-Generated Reviews Have Significant Impact on Offline Purchase Behavior
comScore Inc, 11/29/07

A study conducted by comScore and The Kelsey Group reveals that consumers will pay significantly more for local services that have positive ratings online.

User Ratings Top Consumers' Online Wish Lists
Kerry Bodine, Ross Popoff-Walker, Forrester Research, 2/06/08

Forrester Research asked more than 5,000 consumers to tell them what Web site content and functionality they'd most like to see. User ratings and reviews topped the list, with 64 percent of consumers requesting the function.

Consumers Turn to Online Ratings and Reviews, as Sites Respond to Concerns
Rating and Review Professional Association, 2/28/08

As online ratings become more important to the success of products and services, critics charge that online rating systems are unfair. To address criticisms, operators of more than a dozen rating and review websites have banded together into a new organization, the Rating and Review Professional Association. The new group will educate businesses, consumers and the press about the online review business, and encourage best practices among its members.

ApartmentRatings.com Among Top 50 Real Estate Sites
International Listings, 3/4/08

RARPA member ApartmentRatings.com was listed among the top 50 real estate websites in the world by International Listings.

Experts See Dim Future For Laws Against Anonymous Comments
Wendy Davis, Media Post, 3/14/08

Civil liberties advocates say that such legislation, no matter how well-intentioned, violates First Amendment rights to free speech.

Consumer Complaint Site Defeats Lawsuit By Unhappy Vendor
Eric Goldman, Technology & Marketing Law Blog, 6/25/08

In a textbook application of 47 USC 230, court dismisses all charges against ConsumerAffairs.com.

Car Dealer Can't Sue Ratings Website for Defamation
Lawyers USA, 8/11/08

In what is now becoming routine, a US District Court upheld the protections provided under 47 USC 230 and dismissed a lawsuit against a consumer rating and review website.

Venture Firm Subpoenas Records from Review Site
Matt Marshall, Venture Beat, 8/12/08

Venture firm EDF Ventures, in an apparent attempt to quash negative reviews on VC rating website TheFunded.com, has subpoenaed records relating to the negative posts. TheFunded has stated that the company does not retain identifying informatin on reveiwers.

Google Denied Attorney's Fees in Section 230 Dismissal
Eric Goldman, Technology & Marketing Law Blog, 8/12/08

Google was denied attorney fees when a lawsuit against the company was dismissed under 47 USC 230.  The denial of attorney's fees was based on a technicality and reversed an award by a lower court.  The initial award of attorney's fees reflects the courts' increasing impatience with frivolous lawsuits against website operators.

Wikipedia Defamation Lawsuit Dismissed under Section 230
John Timmer, ArsTechnica, 8/13/08

A New Jersey Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against Wikipedia, re-affirming the website operator's immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Bay Area newspaper Accuses Yelp of Accepting Payoffs
Kathleen Richards, East Bay Express, 2/18/09

Business owners claim that Yelp advertising sales reps offered to remove negative reviews in exchange for ad purchases.

Consumers Rely on Ratings, Reviews and Recommendations During Recession
eMarketingandCommerce.com (eM+C), 2/26/09

A Jupiter Research study shows forty-eight percent of online shoppers plan to spend less this year, but 61 percent are positively influenced by online shopping resources such as ratings and reviews.

Doctors attempt to Gag Patient's Ratings
Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press, 3/3/09

A North Carolina consulting firm is providing doctors with a standardized waiver agreement. Patients who sign agree not to post online comments about the doctor, "his expertise and/or treatment."

John Swapceinski, co-founder of RateMDs.com, said that in recent months, six doctors have asked him to remove negative online comments based on patients' signed waivers. He has refused.

"They're basically forcing the patients to choose between health care and their First Amendment rights, and I really find that repulsive," Swapceinski said.

Lawyers try to Prevent avvo.com from using Public Information
Kim Hart, Washington Post, 3/9/09

The D.C. Bar Association is attempting to block avvo.com from using publicly available information on their site, claiming that information such as name, address, and practice areas is protected by copyright law.

Chicago Businesses add to Yelp Allegations
Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune, 3/9/09

Chicago business owners add to claims that Yelp ad sales reps offer to move reviews in exchange for ad purchases.

MySpace adds Business Ratings
Evan Hessel, Forbes, 3/31/09

Gathering inspiration from the rise of popular local ratings site Yelp, MySpace announced that it is adding local business ratings tools to its social network.

Yelp will allow Businesses to Respond to Ratings
Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times, 4/11/09

Review site Yelp will allow business to post replies to ratings on the Yelp site.Many rating sites, such as RARPA memerrs RateMDs.com and Ratingz.net, have allowed responses to ratings for several years.

Surprise! Physicians Criticize Doctor Ratings Sites
iHealthBeat, 6/8/09

As more and more people are turning to online review sites, doctors are increasingly critical of the sites' accuracy and usefulness. 

(See related News - Doctors Attempt to Gag Patient's Ratings)

'Lifestyle Lift' Settles Case of Fake Reviews
Claire Cain Miller, New York Times, 7/14/09

The company will pay $300,000 for publishing fake reviews of its products on popular rating sites.

TripAdvisor posts Warnings of Hotels Posting Fake Reviews
Melissa Trujillo, Associated Press, July 15, 2009

The travel site has begun posting warnings when suspicious rating activity leads them to believe the hotels are posting fake reviews on the TripAdvisor website.

Reviews on Websites Increase Traffic, Trust and Sales
Helen Leggatt, BizReport, 11/23/09

A new survey from RatePoint found that, of the 30% of online retailers who featured product reviews on their website, 43% experienced more sales and 28% said they had received more traffic.

Rating Sites Expose Medical Gag Orders
JoNel Aleccia, MSNBC, 1/13/10

As previous reported, some doctors have begun requiring contracts that prohibit patients from posting online reviews.  But this may backfire on doctors, as review sites now list doctors that require these "medical gag orders."

New class action lawsuit targets Yelp
Caroline McCarthy, CNET, 2/24/10

The suit claims the Yelp is running a virtual extortion scheme in which Yelp sales reps solicite payments form businesses to hide or remove negative reviews.  Similar charges were made against Yelp in February of 2009 by a Bay Area newspaper.

Professor Rating Site a Staple Among Students
Laura Beth Calcote, The Vanguard, 3/8/10

Survey shows that more than 75% of students use the vintage rating sate RateMyProfessors.com, first launched in 1999.

Business Owners Realize Online Reviews can Make or Break Them
Star-Ledger, 3/25/10

Online review communities now have a dramatic impact on the success of a business.

Yelp Changes Procedures in Wake of Lawsuit
Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times, 4/6/10

Stung by criticisms, and what some small business owners categorized as extortion, Yelp has implemented several changes in their procedures to increase transparency.

Leading Historian posts Malicious Reviews
BBC News, 4/24/10

Orlando Figes, a professor at London's Birkbeck College, has admitted posting a string of positive reviews of his own work, and negative reviews of other author's books.  The Figes incident illustrates one of the dangers of online reviews.  Many online review sites use a variety of filters to attempt to screen out ratings spam.

Scammer Uses Bad Reviews to Improve Search Placement
David Segal, New York Times, 11/26/10

DecorMyEyes.com has horrible reviews on many sites...  but the operator says he doesn't mind.  The many bad reviews, which contain links to the site, actually improve the site's placement in search engines.  (Since this story was published, Google announced that it has adjusted its algorithm so companies that perform poor customer service will be penalized in search results.)

December 7, 2010:  A follow up article  indicated that site operator Vitaly Borker has been arrested by federal agents, and charged with fraud, cyberstalking and interstate threats.

Toronto Police fear Abuse on New Rating Site
Kenyon Wallace, National Post, 12/11/10

Toronto police are concerned that a new site, JudgeMyCop.ca, will incite abuse toward police officers.  The Toronto Police Association is monitoring the site to insure that it does not cross the line and become a legal issue.

Websites in Canada, unlike their US counterparts, are not protected from iiability for user contributed content.  (See Legal Information for Rating and Review Sites.)

Internet Marketer Advises Businesses on Using Online Rating Sites
Jon Schepke, Search Engine Watch, 2/25/2011

Marketing expert says 55 percent of U.S. consumers trust a local business more after reading positive online reviews.  One of the most cost-effective means for small business owners to attract new business is simply encouraging customers to submit online reviews.

Yelp Shares Advice on Responding to Critics
Yelp Web Log, 3/16/11

Yelp business outreach manager addresses business owners' complaints of bad reveiws with practical advice on how to respond.

New Site Exposes Doctors' Attempts to Suppress Online Reviews
Eric Goldman, Technology & Marketing Law Blog, 4/13/11

A new website, doctoredreviews.com, addresses the form contracts being used by many doctors and medical facilities to restrict patients' rights to post online reviews on sites such as RateMDs.

“This practice poses a grave threat to the integrity of online consumer reviews,” said Eric Goldman, director of Santa Clara University’s High Tech Law Institute and a former general counsel to Epinions.com.

Yelp Survey says Yellow Pages No Longer Relevant
Yelp, May 3, 2011

In a survey of small business owners conducted by Yelp, only 24% of respondents said that the Yellow Pages are still relevant to their business.

Three out of four business owners do not use the Yellow Pages at all.

90% of the respondents said that the Yellow Pages account for less than 25% of their sales leads. 

Medical Justice posts Bogus Reviews on RateMDs.com!
John Swapceinski, RateMDs.com, 5/24/11

RateMDs co-founder John Swapceinski has revealed solid evidence that Medical Justice has been posting glowing reviews for dozens of doctors.  Medical Justice has recently come under strong criticism for their attempts to limit patients' rights to post reviews of their doctors.  (See http://www.ecotarget.com/health/doctors-try-to-silence-patients)

SPEECH Act Provides Additional Protections for US Review Sites
Wikipedia, 7/18/11

Rating and review sites operating in the United States have strong protections against libel suits under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

However, it's possible for plaintiffs in other countries to sue US site operators under much stiffer libel laws in their own countries.  If the plaintiff wins the suit, under their local laws, they can then file a request in a US court to enforce the judgement.  This allows plaintiffs in other countries to do an end run around US laws.

However, in 2010 the US Congress passed the SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) Act.  The new law essentially prohibits US courts from enforcing libel judgements unless the charges also meet US standards for libel.

It also adds a cause of action allowing US companies to counter-sue the non-US plaintiffs. 

Attorney Threatens LawyerRatingz.com; EFF Responds
David Kravets, Wired, 2/24/12

Florida attorney Adrian Philip Thomas has threatened legal action against online review site LawyerRatingz.com over negative reviews that appears on the site.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)  has responded by filing a suit in federal court to block the threats, and to declare the website immune from any threatened legal action on the matter.

Read more in the EFF Press Release: www.eff.org/press/releases/eff-files-suit-block-threats-aimed-lawyer-ratings-site

Yelp Criticized for Removing Legitimate Reviews
Justin Vincent, 4/24/12

Well-known technology blogger and Podcaster Justin Vincent explains how Yelp algorithms remove legitimate reviews, while allowing phoney reviews from reputation management companies. 

Attorney and Wife Awarded $13.7 million in Online Libel Suit
David Lee, Courthouse News Service, 4/27/12

Jurors awarded Mark and Rhonda Lesher $13.7 million in a libel complaint against several online posters. 

The libelous comments were posted anonymously on the Topix online forums.  Topix was served with a subpoena to obtain informaiton used to identify the posters, but the company itself was not named in the lawsuit. 

Doctors Fear Online Ratings, but Most Reviews are Positive
Michelle Andrews, The Washington Post, 7/2/12

Many doctors are adamantly opposed to online ratings (see Doctors Try to Silence Patients), but a recent study by Guodong Gordon Gao and colleagues at the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems shows that their fears may be misplaced. 

The study showed that:

These factors indicate that online ratings may actually be an indicator of physician quality.

Gartner Predicts Widespread Fake Reviews by 2014
Barb Darrow, GigaOm, 9/17/12

Gartner Research predicts that within two years, 10-15% of all online reviews will be paid for by companies.

Study Finds Doctors Sceptical of Online Ratings
Andis Robeznieks, Modern Physician, 1/16/13

In a survey conducted by the American College of Physician Executives, only 12% of doctors felt that online reviews are useful - although 69% report checking their own ratings.

CDA 230 Success Cases: The Ratingz Network
Adi Kamdar, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 1/28/13

As part of a contuing series of articles on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the EFF's Adi Kamdar inteviews John Swapceinski, co-founder of the Ratingz Network.

Will Yelp be Dead in Two Years?
Chris Crum, WebProNews.com, 8/25/13

Business owners continue to bash Yelp and charge the company with 'extortion.'  Despite years of efforts by Yelp to refute such allegations, small businesses still believe that reviews are tied to advertising.

Angel investor Peter Shankman stated that Yelp's business model is fundamentally flawed, and within two years tursted reviews from  Google and social sites will drive Yelp out of business.

Yelp Turns the Tables and files Lawsuits over Phoney Reviews
Patrick Clark, Business Week, 9/9/13

Yelp is now suing sites that sell false reviews for its website. And this week, a new report says that Yelp may even now be targeting individual business owners who file false reviews.

Harvard Study Reveals Extensive Fake Reviews
Michael Luca and Georgios Zervas, Harvard Business School, 9/17/13

A study by Harvard Busienss School has brought new light to fake reveiws on Yelp and other online review sites.  According to the study, false potiive reviews are most often submitted to counter negative reviews.  False negative reviews are often submitted in competitive markets.  Yelp's own algorithms identify approximately 15% of reviews as fake.

Consumer Fined For Posting a Negative Review Online
Matt Gephardt, KUTV, 11/12/13

E-commerce website kleargear.com has attempted to 'fine' a disgruntled customer for posting a negative review, based on a clause in the site's online Terms of Use.

Study Finds Flawed Business Practices on Major Rating Sites
Jeff Yeager, AARP Blog, 12/3/13

An investigation of major rating sites has uncovered business practices that lead to conflicts of interest, ncluidng accepting advertising from businesses being rated, and allowing businesses to contact reviewers and urge them to change their ratings.

Rating Sites can Help Make Hospitals Less Deadly
Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, 12/4/13

Websites that provide real data on procedure outcomes and infection rates can help consumers choose the safest hospitals - and force hospitals to improve their records in order to compete. 

Court Rules Yelp must Provide Names of Reviewers
Kellan Howell and Phillip Swarts, The Washington Times, 1/8/14

A Virginia court has ruled that Yelp must honor a subpoena for the names of seven people who submitted negative reviews of Virginia-based Hadeed Carpet Cleaning.  The company's owner, Joe Hadeed, claimed that users leaving bad reviews were not customers of the cleaning service, which would violate Yelp’s terms of service.

Yelp Plagued by Unsubstantiated Claims of Ad Extortion
Chris Crum, Web Pro News, 1/24/14

Despite solid studies and evidence showing that ratings are not tied to advertising, businesses continue to charge Yelp with ad extortion.

Consumer Sued over Online Review
Mandi Woodruff, Yahoo Finance, 1/28/14

A contractor is suing consumer Jane Perez for $750,000 in damages for negative reviews posted on Yelp and Angie's List. 

What Businesses Think of Review Sites
Geek News Desk, Broadway World, 1/30/14

A study by Woodbury University and ReviewInc shows that businesses believe online reviews directly affect their revenue.

Yahoo Partners with Yelp
Douglas MacMillon and Daisuke Wakabayashi, Wall Street Journal, 2/10/14

Yahoo will begin including Yelp ratings in local business search results.

More Patients Are Checking Doctor-Rating Web Sites
Amy Norton, WebMD, 2/18/14

A recent study shows increased use of doctor-rating websites.

Online Doctor Ratings Prove Useful to Consumers
Scott Hensley, NPR, 2/20/14

In an online survey conducted by the University of Michigan, 59 percent said that online doctor ratings were either somewhat important or very important in making a decision about which doctor see.

Top Complaints Posted on Doc-Rating Websites?
Shelly Reese, Medscape, 2/20/14

Study shows that complaints on online review sites generally focus on the softer side of medicine.

Small Businesses Underestimating Online Reviews
Gabrielle Karol, Fox Business, 2/25/14

According to a recent survey, 90% of consumers are influenced by positive online reviews but only half of small business owners believe these reviews are important.

New Contracts Take Away Consumers' Right to Post Reviews
Catey Hill, Market Watch, 3/20/14

Increasingly, service providers ranging from doctors to wedding photographers, and even online retailers, are using contracts that prohibit clients from posting online reviews... and allow the service provider to sue the client if reviews are posted.

Yelp Lawsuit Weighs Free Speech versus Fairness
Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal, 4/2/14

A business owner's lawsuit against Yelp is header for the Virginia Supreme Court later this month.

RateMDs.com Acquired
Rajan Chopra, VerticalScope Inc., 4/10/14

RateMDs.com, the largest doctor rating site, has been acquired by VerticalScope Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

Hotel Renovators Use Online Reviews as Input
Martha C. White, New York Times, 9/23/14

When planning major renovations, hotel chains are turning to online reviews to determine what guests really want. Features ranging from the placement of light switches to bathroom amenities may be based on feedback on review sites.

Congress Moves to Protect Consunber Reviews
Eric Goldman, Forbes, 9/24/14

A bill has been introduced in the US congress that would prevent companies from taking action against consumers who post negative reviews. The proposed federal bill closely mirrors a bill recently passed in California. You can follow the status of the bill at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/5499/text

How Yelp and TripAdvisor Affect Small Businesses
Ann Marie Van Den Hurk, Lexington Herald-Leader, 9/29/14

Studies confirm the impact of online reviews on small businesses.

Angie's List Is In Trouble
Brad Tuttle, Time / Money, 10/2/14

For years, Angie's List bucked the trend of free rating and review sites. Members paid annual fees to get access to trusted reviews. But as the trustworthiness of Angie's List is called into question, the company is being forced to cut subscription fees to maintain their membership.

Tworp Rates Students on Group Projects
Louise Brown, Toronto Star, 10/16/14

A new site, tworp.com, allows students to rate their classmates on contribution to group projects. The site's goal is to help serious students avoid working with slackers, and perhaps encourage students to work harder on group projects.

New Site Rates Doctors on Results
Jayne O'Donnell, USA Today, 10/20/14

A new rating site, Healthgrades.com, uses over 500 million reports from government and private sources, to rate doctors on experience, success rates, and patient feedback. The site was rolled out just in time to provide data for the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period,

Yelp Sues Review Provider Revleap
Zach Miners, IT World, 2/13/15

Yelp has filed a lawsuit against Revleap, claiming that the company knowingly posts false messages and reviews. According to Yelp, Revleap also uses rewards like gift cards to entice consumers to post positive reviews for their clients.

InHerSight Allows Women To Anonymously Rate Past And Present Employers
Alanna Vagianos, Huffington Post, 2/24/15

InHerSight.com allows women to score their employers on how female friendly the workplace environments are. With many work environments proving to be unsafe or unwelcoming to women, websites like InHerSight could be very useful for women looking to move jobs.

New Site Rates Restaurant Accessibility
Lindsey Reiser, AZ Family, 3/16/15

An Arizona man has started a site to rate restaurant and vacation venue accessibility for people with mobility challenges.

Yelp Stock Falls on Rumors of Movie
Kurumi Fukushima, The Street, 3/19/15

Yelp's stock price is falling in heavy trading, due to a company that is raising money on Kickstarter to complete a documentary movie. According to The Street, The documentary, Billion Dollar Bully is based on claims of extortion, review manipulation and review fabrication on Yelp's review platform.

Nightmare Rental Experience Leads Woman to Launch Rating Website
Merissa Richards, London Evening Standard, 3/27/15

Getting stuck in a one-year lease in a damp, insect-infested apartment led Payal Bhavnani to launch a new rating and review website, AskTenants.com, where tenants can rate their landlords.

Yelp Discloses Reviewers Indentity in Defamation Case
Joe Mullin, Ars Technica, 9/30/15

Earlier this month, a Boston-based jeweler filed a lawsuit against an anonymous woman who filed a highly critical and inflammatory 1-star review. The jeweler subpoenaed records relating to the woman's identity.

After initially resisting the subpoena, Yelp has now complied with an order from a municipal court judge to hand over the user's name and address, allowing the suit against the woman to proceed.

Yelp Settles Lawsuit Against Attorney Accused of False Reviews
Cyrus Farvar, Ars Technica, 10/2/15

Yelp has settled a lawsuit filed against San Diego attorney Julian McMillan. The suit was filed in May, 2015, and claimed that McMillan had filed false reviews to boost his business.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

How To Spot a Fake Online Review
Sarah Skidmore Sell, Newsfactor, 10/25/15

A team at Cornell University has developed a computer program than can spot 'fakeonline reviews with 90% accuracy. The researchers also identified several factors that can help humans identify fake reviews.

New Law Protects Consumer Right to Post Reviews
Wendy Davis, MediaPost, 12/16/16

A new law, signed by President Obama, protects consumer's rights to post online reviews.

In recent years, many service providers (ranging from doctors to contractors) have required customers to sign contracts which precluded them from posting or sharing unfavorable reviews. The new Consumer Review Fairness Act precludes this practice.