July 24, 2013

Auto website suspects reviews are fake

Edmunds.com is suing a company that it says made dozens of posts praising certain auto dealers.

Los Angeles Times

Auto-information website


sued a company that allegedly posted more than 60 fake reviews of car dealers.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Edmunds screens every review consumers post on its website, and in early February, the moderators began noticing a pattern among reviews of about two dozen dealers. Within a month, Edmunds determined several reviews were coming from a single source. Email addresses of 2,000 member accounts traced back to Humankind Design Ltd., which operates Glowingreviews.co out of Galveston County, Texas.

"The reviews were obviously not coming from the variety of sources and locations being stated," Edmunds chief general counsel Ken Levin said.

So as not to tip off fraudsters, Edmunds would not discuss what clues lead them to believe a review is fake. But Levin described the fake reviews in this case as being "short and not too specific" and unbalanced.

"They are just glowing," he said.

The lawsuit was filed in Texas on Tuesday. Among other things, the lawsuit accuses Humankind Design of fraud and breach of the Edmunds.com membership agreement.

Online reviews have become a major factor in consumer decision-making, with businesses failing on negative ratings. Reputation management and public relations firms have popped up to help businesses improve their online identities.

Digital Air Strike, a company that sells these sorts of services, found in a consumer survey released in May that online reviews were the most helpful factor in deciding where to buy a car. Edmunds was the second-leading destination that buyers visited.

Edmunds, which provides consumer information about car shopping, has not yet reached out to the dealers who were reviewed by Humankind, so it's not sure to what extent they were involved. "We're not sure if they were complicit or if they were victims too," Levin said.

Last month, Yelp also sued a pay-for-reviews website. The popular business-search portal accused BuyYelpReview.com of posting fake reviews in violation of Yelp's terms of service.

Edmunds, which is seeking to shut down Humankind's review service and receive monetary damages, is bringing a similar case. Humankind could not immediately be reached for comment.


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