Ripoff Report is notorious for its "no removal" policy, and claims enthusiastically that it doesn't remove reports. No amount of money, pleading or legal litigation seems to be capable of changing this policy. However, reputation attorney Aaron Minc reported that Ripoff Report is quietly making some important changes to this iron clad rule.
Ripoff Report's Policies
Ask Ripoff Report why they hold so staunchly, and they will tell you it's all about credibility. They will say that they aren't in the position to judge the credibility of either side of the dispute, they are merely a virtual wall with which customers post complaints. They may also point to the handful of "editor's comments" that speckle the site, which they say are good-faith attempts at setting the record straight.
They would also point to fairness. The site, they argue, maintains its purity precisely because it allows all comers to post their grievances and it preserves a record of these disputes. They think of themselves as a kind of history book, recording the rights and wrongs of companies. Whether those are true or false.
In addition, effectiveness is a concern. They claim that incentivizing the removal of posts would create bad business practices, and leave the system open to game.
Right or wrong, that's the stance they've chosen to take.
Ed Magedson, the founder and owner of Ripoff Report, is notorious in the reputation management world. He has been called an extortionist, with some of his "victims" reporting they paid as much as $8,000 to investigate posts and tell their side of the story. You can see examples of these abuses in my previous article on this topic.
Ripoff Report has begun rolling out some new changes that will affect its subjects. Previously, even with a court judgment in your favor, it was nearly impossible to compel Ripoff Report to follow the law and remove the post. In correspondence with the legal counsel for Ripoff Report, Aaron Minc has uncovered information suggesting some welcome policy changes.
In the original text on Minc's blog, Ripoff Report states that they will make "appropriate edits" to reports that are posted by third parties. Similar to the editor comments already instated, this new policy specifically applies to judgments.
The correspondence goes on:
"Ripoff Report needs to see the specific findings of the court."
There are a few qualifiers to be aware of. First, the ruling needs to be self explanatory and contain specific references to Ripoff Report itself. No blanket legal protections here. The defaming statement must also have reference within the judgment, and the judgment cannot be default. Meaning both parties must attend Court proceedings and argue the facts openly.
Before you take to the streets in celebration of great justice being served, consider that there are a few limitations. Ripoff Report still has a long way to go before it can meet its own claims of impartiality.
This change still protects Ripoff Report from removing entire posts. They believe they have solid legal grounds to continue defending this practice, and are likely to do so well into the future. The lack of default judgments being enforced is another cause for concern.
In the case of Joe Hadeed, the unfortunate business man who suffered at the hands of an anonymous Yelp poster, we saw how anonymity can hurt businesses and leave them with little cause for recovery. If that party doesn't show up to court and contest the facts, which Minc points out is common in civil disputes, the judgment is invalid in the eyes of Ripoff Report.
In addition, and perhaps most frustrating, Ripoff Report is looking for specific information related to the post. That probably means things like the name of the poster (actual name, monikers won't do), the URL of the posting, and any defamation contained within the post itself.
Driving the Changes
Ripoff Report may become more lenient as time goes on. They cite repeated disputes as the driving force behind the policy change. Perhaps enough people have brought litigation against Ripoff Report to justify making the change?
It's definitely a good step toward improving Ripoff Report's policies, but they still need to come up with a way of stopping fake and anonymous defamatory reviews. As it stands, anyone can post a negative review on anyone else using a fake email address.
Sites like Ripoff Report need to take more responsibility for their practices, and take steps to protect the businesses being victimized by fake reviews. One idea I have is to implement a user verification system. What do you think can be done?