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Edmunds.com settles lawsuit against alleged fake reviewer Humankind

August 29, 2013|By Paresh Dave
  • Auto-information company Edmunds.com has reached a settlement with a company it sued for allegedly posting fake reviews of car dealers.
Auto-information company Edmunds.com has reached a settlement with a… (Edmunds.com Inc )

A company recently sued for allegedly posting fake reviews of two dozen car dealers to Edmunds.com has agreed to a settlement, the automotive information website announced this week.

Humankind Design Ltd. had been accused by Edmunds.com of breaching the Santa Monica company's membership agreement by creating more than 2,200 user accounts in an apparent attempt to post phony reviews.

As part of the settlement, Humankind is barred from Edmunds.com and will pay an undisclosed sum toward the company's legal fees.

Justin Anderson, the head of Humankind, declined comment until the settlement is formally approved by a judge in a Texas state court.

Small businesses struggle to manage online image

Humankind is one of hundreds of companies that cater to the growing number of businesses looking to stand out online. On the website Glowingreviews.co -- recently shut down -- Humankind said it could post reviews to multiple websites and improve ratings on places such as Yelp and Google+.

In previous statements, Humankind denied wrongdoing and said it was posting reviews online that had been handwritten by consumers at the dealerships. Edmunds.com general counsel Ken Levin said the issue did not come up during settlement talks.

Levin also said he was unsure whether the dealers knew what Humankind was doing.

“We suspect that some dealers engaged marketing or reputation management companies, who in turn subcontracted with Humankind – most likely without the dealer's knowledge,” he said.

Edmunds notified other review websites about Humankind, but none of them has announced any action against the company.

Seth Berkowitz, Edmunds.com president and chief operating officer, in a statement hailed the deal as a “victory” for both those who seek out ratings and reviews and the “thousands of honest dealers who embrace authentic customer feedback.”

He added that Edmunds.com uses humans to screen every review before it appears on the website. Those screeners found a pattern in 76 reviews and linked them back to Humankind.

“We will not hesitate to push back against anyone who tries to compromise the terms of our user agreements,” Berkowitz stated.

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