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Posting fake online reviews? We’re after you.
That’s essentially the message of automotive information site Edmunds.com, which sued 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. GlowingReviews.co has since been taken down.
Edmunds.com reached a settlement in August of 2013 with the company that operated GlowingReviews.co, Humankind Design.
In a statement, Justin Anderson, owner of Humankind Design, 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.”
The Impact of Online Reviews and Ratings on the Automotive Industry
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 2015 study by Digital Air Strike, 75 percent of car buyers are willing to travel up to 60 miles if a car dealership has good reviews. In addition, 63 percent of customers who need service say they will do the same.
75 percent of consumers who buy cars also say that Internet research, which includes research via review sites and social media, is the most helpful resource when choosing a car dealership.
The same study indicates that Edmunds 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 could be done with the help of companies like GlowingReviews.co, which described itself as a service for “automatic, hands-free posting of reviews and ratings”; for $25 and up per month, it automated the posting of online consumer reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, Foursquare, Citysearch, Cars.com, and Edmunds.com, among others.
It also promised that the reviews were posted by users in the same local area as your business – “for added legitimacy.”
But review sites like Edmunds have fought 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.”