Ripoff Report is a for-profit website that hosts a platform for consumer complaints against specific companies. Some individuals laud it for its empowerment of consumers’ right to free speech, but others condemn it for its apparent lack of authenticity, its preferential treatment of consumer reporters, and its unwillingness to cooperate with businesses. In this edition of “Prospect Genius Reviews…,” we’ll explain why we agree with the latter viewpoint.
To start, Ripoff Report allows its users to freely post complaints (known on the site as “reports”) about businesses or individuals that are not corroborated or validated. There’s no cost and no user authentication process. If a person wants to submit a report, all he or she has to do is input an e-mail address and birth date to ensure that they’re older than age fourteen (fourteen!). Once users have completed this initial step, they’re allowed to post whatever they want about a company that they feel has wronged them.
That’s right: whatever they want. There’s no moderator to fact-check user claims or to contact the accused companies for their side of the story (which is one of the biggest differences between Ripoff Report and the Better Business Bureau). No one even checks to see if the reports are at least coherent or logical. Instead, reports are submitted and posted— anonymously, no less— without any rules or regard to the potential damage to the named companies. Moreover, when reports can be submitted anonymously, they’re more likely to be much more vicious and deceptive because there is no personal accountability attached to them.
The problems with Ripoff Report don’t start and end with the reports themselves, though. The whole structure of the website also shows a very serious bias toward reporters, giving them a universal benefit of the doubt, while it buries business owners’ responses underneath the original post and a disorganized pile of links. That means, even when a business owner replies to the original complaint, few, if any, users will actually see that response. And while business owners are encouraged to respond to any legitimate complaints against them, the fact that their business appears on a site called “Ripoff Report” is already a black mark on their online reputation, regardless of how they handle the dispute.
And heaven forbid a consumer leaves a totally false or slanderous report, because reports are extremely difficult and costly to have removed. According to the Better Business Bureau’s complaint file on Ripoff Report:
“Some complainants report that when they contact the company regarding the removal of the reports, the business may inform the complainant that they must pay a fee (usually $2,000), to have the report removed and/or arbitrated.”
The Ripoff Report website gives vague instructions to business owners who wish to contact the author of a report (presumably to sue them or threaten to sue them for defamation). First, you must post a rebuttal to the original report with a notice that declares the initiation of court proceedings to obtain the author’s information; then, you must wait “a reasonable amount of time” for the author to respond. Once you’ve gone through this rigamarole, you may obtain a subpoena through the Arizona court system that fully explains your claim of defamation. Oh, and you have to pay a fee of $150 with your subpoena “due to the time and expense involved in responding.” And Ripoff Report “reserves the right to charge additional fees.”
Great. Just so we’re clear: An unidentified person with a vendetta can create a free account on Ripoff Report and write a completely uncorroborated story about a business, and the business then has to shell out cash to have that story removed.Gee, we wonder how they make their money!
For the record, 52 complaints were filed with the BBB against Ripoff Report in the last 3 years. None of them were resolved. The Bureau has given Ripoff Report an “F” rating (on a scale of A+ to F) for the following reasons:
- 52 complaints filed against business
- Failure to respond to 51 complaints filed against business
- 1 complaint filed against business that was not resolved
- Overall complaint history with BBB
- Business has failed to resolve underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints
While the BBB remains an objective organization, Prospect Genius reviews Ripoff Report from the perspective of a small business whose online reputation is always dependent on customer reviews, for better or worse. For that reason, we cannot be objective. We see Ripoff Report as an affront to the honesty and integrity of hardworking businesses all across the country. Of course, there have always been shady companies out there looking to scam innocent people, but the majority of us local businesses take pride in satisfying our communities with reliable products and services.
The fact that countless business owners have been negatively affected by lies about them online is something that concerns every small business owner, not just Prospect Genius. What business among us hasn’t encountered a disgruntled former employee or an irrationally angry customer? A defamatory report could hit any one of us at any time. Take a look at this list of the “Top 25 Complaints and Reviews About RipoffReport.com,” and try to curb your anger.
Next time on “Prospect Genius Reviews…,” we’ll review the current state of Google’s sponsored ads and their potential impact on online search.