If you’ve got a business of any size, it’s only a matter of time before you hear the two words every business owner learns to dread: “Ripoff Report.” RipoffReport.com is famous, or perhaps the better word is notorious, for being able to wreck a business and business owners being unable to fight back. But what is Ripoff Report? What can you do about it? And how can you deal with it if a customer decides to get nasty? Here’s everything you need to know about removing Ripoff Report reviews from the Internet.
What Is Ripoff Report?
Ripoff Report is, essentially, a consumer review website not unlike, YellowPages.com, TripAdvisor, or a host of other review websites on the Internet. The key difference between it and other sites is how it’s set up… and a large source of the problems business owners have with it.
Essentially, Ripoff Report can be used easily to slander a business, thanks to its focus on the negative; you won’t find a positive review on Ripoff Report. To file a review, you need to be able to type it out, click a checkbox, and then the nasty review is up on the Internet for all to see. There’s no moderation or oversight, and that means even the most outrageous and abusive review can be posted to the site without anyone’s knowledge.
And once it’s there, the site makes it a standing policy to refuse to remove any review. In fact, unlike any other site, the original author can’t remove the review or even edit it. Worse, the site is fairly effective about indexing its reviews on Google, so if you look for your business online, it can be highly ranked.
Needless to say, the site is less than popular, and you don’t have to go very far to find people who feel victimized by its policies. And that may not exactly be an incorrect perception.
Is Ripoff Report A Ripoff?
Considering how hard it is to remove Ripoff Reports from the Internet, some business owners have accused the site of having it both ways. While the site doesn’t accept advertising, it does offer an “arbitration” process… that will cost you $2000 up front. Or you can pay the company to hire investigators, potentially costing you thousands, with absolutely no guarantee of results; the company decides whether or not to redact content from reviews.
Oh, and the burden of proof is entirely on you; the anonymous critic never has to face the music. What do you get for your money? A headline and some text above the complaints, even though the money supposedly goes to investigators to confirm or deny complaints. Even a false Ripoff Report won’t be taken down from the Internet. And just to add insult to injury, if you get another unverified, unchecked report in, that headline and text is stripped out and you’re back to square one.
Needless to say, this has resulted in a lot of anger in the business community, especially as the site has plans to expand and adds thirty to forty customers every month. They charge that the site is built around blackmail, and the addition of a “verified” service that lets businesses without complaints keep them off the site doesn’t help that perception. The impossibility of removing Ripoff Report reviews from online forums combined with the financial costs of trying to fight them is a sharp contrast with almost every other website hosting reviews on the Internet.
Is it possible to fight Ripoff Report reviews? It is, but it’s important to know what to do and how to fight the site… and just as importantly, where.
Rage on the Internet shouldn’t define your business.
Powerless Under The Law
The first thing many business owners mutter when confronted with the difficulty of fighting Ripoff Report is that the site can’t possibly be legal… but unfortunately, so far Ripoff Report has won in court. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, websites are not responsible for user-generated content. This is actually something that works in the favor of all of us much of the time: It means that your favorite website can’t be shut down by somebody issuing death threats in the comments section, for example.
But that has the side effect of Ripoff Report is essentially immune to any consequences of the behavior of its users, unless you include them in the lawsuit from the start… which you can’t do, because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. You could take the user to court, for example, and if they don’t show up, you win the case in a default judgment. But Ripoff Report isn’t legally required to take down the content, and since the user can’t redact the review themselves… erasing a Ripoff Report is essentially impossible, even if you win.
So can you obligate your customers to, essentially, not slander you? Again, legally, that’s tricky territory at best, and it’s easy to rather quickly become the bad guy. A good example is the case of Jen and John Palmer, who wrote a bad review of KlearGear.com on Ripoff Report… only to be hit with a $3,500 “fine” for violating the site’s terms of service. That’s spun out into a long, and ugly, court case that no business wants to be involved in, all over a set of items that cost less than $20.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you’re out of options. You may not be able to remove Ripoff Reports from your online footprint… but you can make them hard to find.
Fighting Back Against Ripoff Report
There are two simple tactics for fighting Ripoff Report online; removing links from search engines, and burying links so that no one sees them.
The first technique is a bit more difficult than you might think, but it is possible. If you can demonstrate that a report is false in a court of law, Google will remove the link. Keep in mind that you’ll have to take the user themselves, not Google or Ripoff Report, to court, or you’ll have to be able to prove that the person who posted the review is somebody with whom you’ve had legal difficulty. Also, if the report mentions personal information, you can get the Ripoff Report removed.
Arbitration is not the solution to slander online.
The second is simplicity itself. Search engines index content based on how relevant it is. All you have to do is create relevant content about yourself, and make sure it’s widely seen and shared. Forcing a Ripoff Report review down your search results will have it seen less and less, and if it goes to the second page, the vast majority of searchers will never see it.
If you need help fighting slander and false reviews online, whether at Ripoff Report or elsewhere, ReputationDefender has the experience and the software to effectively fight bad reviews. Removing Ripoff Report reviews shouldn’t be hard, and it isn’t, with ReputationDefender.
Photo credits: David Castillo Dominici of freedigitalphotos.net, artur84 of freedigitalphotos.net, franky242 of freedigitalphotos.net