Posting fake online reviews? We’re after you.
That’s essentially the message of automotive information site Edmunds.com as it sues a Texas company alleged to have posted more than 60 fake reviews of approximately two dozen car dealerships.
According to Edmunds senior executive vice president and chief general counsel Ken Levin, the company decided to file the lawsuit against GlowingReviews.co after it noticed that “the reviews were not coming from the variety of sources and locations being stated.” Allegedly, GlowingReviews.co created over 2,000 registrations and attempted to post dozens of fake online reviews of car dealerships on Edmunds.com.
(Check out: “The Growing Influence of Automotive Reviews on Car Buyers”)
In an age when online reviews and ratings play a significant role in influencing consumer decisions, businesses – including car dealerships – can potentially fail because of negative reviews and low ratings. According to a study earlier this year by Digital Air Strike, 70 percent of car buyers said that online dealership reviews influence where they choose to go; moreover, 24 percent considered review sites to be the “most helpful” factor when it comes to making purchase decisions.
The same study indicated that Edmunds (which receives nearly 20 million visitors a month) is the second most popular review website for cars and dealerships, next only to Cars.com.
As a result of the growing influence of reviews, a number of companies have begun to post fake, deceptive, and often paid-for reviews – gaming the system, hyping their own products and services while criticizing their competitors. This can be done with the help of companies like GlowingReviews.co, which describes itself as a service for “automatic, hands-free posting of reviews and ratings”; for $25 and up per month, it automates the posting of online consumer reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, Foursquare, Citysearch, Cars.com, and Edmunds.com, among others.
It also promises that the reviews are posted by users in the same local area as your business – “for added legitimacy.”
But review sites like Edmunds are fighting back in hopes of purifying consumer reviews once again. Its suit – copies of which were sent to Yelp and Citysearch (to alert them of further suspected fraud) – said that the reviews “do not reflect an actual experience of any person, but rather are entirely fabricated to lure new customers to the dealerships that are the subject of the fictitious ‘glowing’ reviews.”
Added Edmunds’ Lavin: “When we saw that their own website promoted this activity and that they weren’t making a secret of it, we decided we had to take an aggressive action against them.”
UPDATE: As of today, July 31, GlowingReviews.co has gone offline. In a statement, Justin Anderson, owner of Humankind Design (under which GlowingReviews.co is registered), said: “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.”