Consumers know that one of the great things about the Internet is being able to research products and services before you buy them. Often an important part of that process is looking at what other consumers have said after making the purchase. Ratings and opinions can vary widely, but it is still possible to get a reasonably clear idea of a product based on how consumers' descriptions of it fit or don't fit with your specific needs.
A popular platform for online customer reviews is the website "Angie's List," which provides customer reviews of service providers in a wide variety of industries. However, a Pennsylvania woman recently filed class-action lawsuit against "Angie's List," claiming the website markets itself as a provider of customer-driven reviews, yet two-thirds of the company's revenue actually comes from service providers.
In a civil lawsuit, it is generally necessary to show that the plaintiff suffered losses as a result of the defendant's action or lack of action. In this case, the lead plaintiff says that she joined "Angie's List" to find a contractor, and after she chose one with no reviews, the contractor ripped her off.
According to the lawsuit, the woman later discovered that other people had posted negative reviews of the contractor's work, but that the contractor had paid "Angie's List" to suppress negative reviews while retaining positive ones. This arrangement resulted in the service provider being boosted in Angie's List's ratings.
The lead plaintiff in the case is seeking damages for unjust enrichment and fraud.
For more on class-action lawsuits, please see Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah's collective litigation overview.