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Alleged fake reviews force injunction against Texas-based company

When it comes to finding the best of anything, consumers are fickle creatures. They rely on reviews from other people and their own experiences to influence whether they will go to a particular place or purchase a particular product in the future. And with society pushing more towards technology-based reviews, it's no surprise that one survey, conducted by Dimensional Research, found that 90 percent of consumers relied on positive online reviews to influence their buying decisions.

But how do you know that what you're reading isn't fake? How do you determine a real experience from a spam-generated review? These questions appear to be the crux of an injunction that was filed in a Texas court last month. The plaintiff in the case, an automotive research company called Edmunds.com, is accusing the Texas-based online reputation company Humankind of posting dozens of "bogus reviews," which violates the site's terms of service. If left unresolved, this legal dispute could mean bad news for both companies.

According to Edmunds.com's terms of service, reviewers must agree to register only once, using a single username at which point they may post reviews that "describe [their] personal experience." But as the company claims in its injunction, sites such as GlowingReviews.com, which is operated by Humankind, are responsible for posting fake online reviews that are akin to spam in the sense that they are not the actual views of real consumers. As Edmunds.com says, many of the reviews were repeated again on other sites not affiliated with the automotive research company.

But Humankind stands behind the reviews posted on sites like GlowingReviews.com, stating that they have not breached the terms of service because their reviewers are real people. While this may be the case, Edmunds.com may argue that the duplication of reviews on multiple sites is proof of spam, which could still be considered a violation of the terms of service.  For Edmunds.com, this could create a drop in customers.  For Humankind, this could mean a tarnished reputation if the accusations end up being true. 

Source: TIME Business & Money, "Alleged Fake Online Review Spammers Get Taken to Court," Brad Tuttle, July 23, 2013

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