Now, Edmunds says that the case has been settled requiring Humankind Design to agree not to register users or submit reviews on Edmunds as well as providing information about the accounts and reviews it fraudulently created; Humankind Design also has to pay Edmunds an undisclosed monetary settlement for legal fees. Edmunds added that it is working with other identified sites – including Google+, Yelp and Foursquare – which Humankind Design may have also created fake reviews for in the past. The press release for the settlement is posted below as is the original release announcing the lawsuit in July.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Aug. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Edmunds.com, the premier resource for car shopping and automotive information, today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Humankind Design Ltd., which stood accused of fraud and breach of the Edmunds.com membership agreement in a lawsuit filed last month in Texas.
Edmunds.com filed the suit after it investigated Humankind's registration of almost 2200 fake member accounts on the site, which Humankind used to attempt to submit content to sway car shoppers' opinions on Edmunds.com's dealer ratings and reviews pages.
As part of the settlement with Edmunds.com, Humankind agrees to:
Submit to a permanent injunction agreeing not to register users on Edmunds.com, not to submit reviews, not to participate in Edmunds.com's online community, and not to breach the site's membership agreement.
Provide Edmunds.com with information concerning all member accounts they registered and all reviews they submitted to Edmunds.com.
Pay an undisclosed sum toward Edmunds.com's legal fees.
"This is undoubtedly a victory not just for the millions of online users who rely on dealership reviews and ratings from fellow car shoppers, but also for the thousands of honest dealers who embrace authentic customer feedback," said Edmunds.com President and Chief Operating Officer Seth Berkowitz. "We will continue to hand screen every review submitted to our site, and we will not hesitate to push back against anyone who tries to compromise the terms of our user agreements."
Humankind's own marketing materials had previously identified 15 review sites on which it was prepared to post reviews similar to those Edmunds.com alleged were fraudulent. Humankind's "supported site" list included Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, Yahoo! and Citysearch. Edmunds.com is proactively providing each of the listed sites with a copy of the permanent injunction that has been agreed to by Humankind so that they can determine for themselves whether action is needed to protect their own consumers.
Edmunds.com has devoted considerable resources to ensuring the integrity of its ratings and reviews data and has successfully shut down other abusive and inappropriate activity throughout the existence of its online forums, which date back to 1996. And, in July 2011, the company warned consumers about online vehicle purchase escrow scams that misappropriated use of the Edmunds.com name. Edmunds.com's efforts in that instance helped the FBI uncover the criminal operation running the scam.
The full terms and conditions included in Edmunds.com's membership agreement can be found at http://www.edmunds.com/about/membership-agreement.html.
About Edmunds.com, Inc.
Edmunds.com is a car-shopping Web site committed to helping people find the car that meets their every need. Almost 18 million visitors use our research, shopping and buying tools every month to make an easy and informed decision on their next new or used car. Whether you're at the dealership or on the go, we're always by your side with our acclaimed Edmunds.com iPhone and iPad apps and our Edmunds.com Android App. Our comprehensive car reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories offer a friendly and authentic approach to the automotive world. We're based in Santa Monica, Calif., but you can connect with us from anywhere by following @Edmunds on Twitter or by becoming a fan of Edmunds.com on Facebook.
ORIGINAL RELEASE from July:
Edmunds.com Seeks Injunction Against Company Responsible for Fraudulent Car Dealer Ratings and Reviews
SANTA MONICA, Calif. - July 23, 2013 - Edmunds.com, the premier resource for car shopping and automotive information, has filed a lawsuit against Texas-based Humankind Design Ltd. for, among other things, fraud and breach of the Edmunds.com membership agreement.
Through its diligent review of every car dealer rating and review submitted to Edmunds.com, the company discovered that Humankind attempted to register almost 2200 fake members on the site and tried to use them to create fraudulent content to sway car shoppers' opinions of dealers.
"Unlike many ratings services, we don't publish any dealer reviews until they are hand-screened by our staff members to make sure that they are compliant with our standards," stated Edmunds.com President and Chief Operating Officer Seth Berkowitz. "Car shoppers and dealers can trust that we at Edmunds.com do everything we can to prevent fake and otherwise inappropriate reviews from appearing on our site."
Shockingly, Edmunds.com found that Humankind's proprietor expressly promotes that he can create fraudulent reviews on ratings web sites. He readily admits online: "Does posting reviews...violate Terms of Service...? In general, the review sites state that you must be posting for yourself and not for someone else. So in these cases the answer would be yes."
Humankind also blatantly identifies 15 review sites on which it is prepared to post fake reviews; the list includes Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, Citysearch and local.yahoo.com. Edmunds.com is proactively providing each of the listed sites with a copy of its filing to further support online consumers who might otherwise encounter such fraud.
Edmunds.com has deliberately and successfully shut down other fraudulent and inappropriate activity throughout the existence of its online Forums, which date back to 1996. And, in July 2011, the company warned consumers about online vehicle purchase escrow scams that misappropriated use of the Edmunds.com name. Edmunds.com's efforts helped the FBI uncover the criminal operation running the scam.
Berkowitz added, "We often say that we're in the business of trust, and, as we build our business based on the trust that consumers have in us, we will always do our best to ensure that people engaging with Edmunds.com have an authentic experience."