Santa Monica, Calif. - Edmunds.com 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 Seth Berkowitz, president and COO, Edmunds.com. "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.