UPDATED: Edmunds Files Lawsuit Against Company Posting “Fake Reviews”
July 31, 2013
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Edmunds filed a lawsuit this morning against
Humankind Design Ltd., a Texas-based online reputation management
company, for allegedly posting fraudulent reviews to its website. The
car-shopping site seeks injunctive relief — prohibiting Humankind from
submitting additional registrations or reviews to the site.
Edmunds’ General Counsel Ken Levin said the company’s screeners
detected the fake reviews before they were ever posted. Through that
process, he explained Edmunds discovered approximately 2,200 fraudulent
accounts linked to Humankind, the parent company of GlowingReviews.co. From those accounts, Levin said the firm attempted to post at least 76 reviews on behalf of 25 dealerships nationwide.
As of press time, Justin Anderson, owner of Humankind and the
defendant named in the suit, had yet to be served the petition, but he
denied allegations his company created or submitted fake reviews. “We
don’t write the reviews or invent the reviews,” he told F&I and Showroom this morning. “We’re posting, to our knowledge, a bona fide review.”
As for the disparity between the number of registered accounts and
actual posts, Levin pointed out GlowingReviews advertises on its site
that it pre-registers accounts across the review sites in order to “age”
them, which essentially helps to legitimize future postings.
“There are companies in the reputation management business that are
legitimate and help dealerships get reviews posted from real customers
with real experiences,” Levin said. “We don't know whether the
dealerships using Humankind thought that's what they were getting. ...
[GlowingReviews] is pretty clear on its website about what they do. It
doesn't take much to see what its business model is.”
To preserve the security of Edmunds’ screening methods, Levin could
not disclose exactly how fraud was detected in the reportedly false
reviews. It was unclear whether the affected dealers had knowledge of
the alleged fraud, but Levin said Edmunds would be reaching out to them
to discuss the matter.
In the complaint, Edmunds also charged Humankind with trademark
infringement. On its homepage, GlowingReviews boasts a list of 15
popular companies hosting consumer reviews. Names include Google+, Yelp,
Cars.com, DealerRater and Edmunds.
In an e-mailed statement, DealerRater officials confirmed they are
not aware of any success from Humankind to post reviews to its site, but
the team is reviewing the specifics of the lawsuit and continuing to
monitor the situation.
"We support Edmunds in their fight against fraudulent review posting
activity," DealerRater officials noted. "We take great pride in
displaying real, trusted review content for our users. Our dedicated
fraud team works hard to ensure this, and we do not tolerate companies
It is unclear whether the other review websites have experienced similar issues with fraudulent reviews from the company.
“They are using our trademark on their website, and the way they use
it suggested that we might be working with them,” Levin said. “So it's a
very serious mistake on their part.”
Anderson declined to comment on Edmunds’ direct claims of trademark
infringement, but he did offer this comment: “If we’re infringing on
their trademark, we definitely don’t want to be doing that.”
— Stephanie Forshee