Help, Legal Options and Online Reputation Management for RipOffReport
See Related Article: “Each Negative Link or Review Loses 30 Customers or $30,000.”
A common question is how to remove RipOffReport reviews. Can they be removed? What are the legal options? Does online reputation management help?
Recover Reputation highlights in detail what RipoffOffReports.com is, how reviews are created, what the dangers are if nothing is done, how it impacts a business’s web reputation, what not to do, the removal process, legal options (including suing the website or the author), online reputation management solutions, as well as a few real world examples.
Attempting to remove negative posts on RipOffReport.com is extremely challenging. What is particularly damaging is that it’s impossible to remove reviews once posted on RipOffReport. Once online, it quickly shows up on the first page of Google. This can ruin an online reputation quickly.
Victims of RipOffReport understand how harmful this can be. If clients see anything negative in a Google search, they simply move on to a competitor. Lawyers, financial advisors, photographers, art galleries, or other professionals can be especially susceptible since their name is often their business name. There are some options to help, including online reputation management, however.
What is RipoffOffReport?
On RipoffOffReport, posters share negative experiences with dishonest or disreputable companies anonymously. Since no names are revealed, it can be a safe environment to describe their true experiences without fear of retribution. The RipoffOffReport is extremely popular and ranks very highly by search engines such as Google, and as a result, can be extremely damaging.
How to Create a Review
The process for adding information on RipoffOffReport is simple. Anyone with an email account can signup and write a review. They can supply details about the person or company such as their name, address, website and phone number. A heading can be created that can include a sentence or two about the issue, which gets picked up and is indexed by Google quickly. Importantly, this heading becomes the link that is displayed and clicked on by users, so the company name shows up very prominently in searches. Finally, there is ample room to describe the detailed experience or problem. Often, there is a long narrative explaining what happened, how the problem started, and full reason for the complaint.
Importantly, no verification or vetting is required for reviews. The comments get published nearly immediately. Once posted, there is an opportunity for the company to offer a rebuttal, as well as a place for others to present or share their experiences. The more updates or rebuttals, the higher it is ranked by Google, however.
The Dangers of RipoffOffReport
While it’s important to give an honest assessment about a bad experience, or express First Amendment rights, RipoffOffReport is frequently a source of untrue reviews. Misunderstandings, rumors and lies presented here often lead to ruined reputations. The main asset became its major headache: anonymous posts.
Because literally anyone can say anything, RipoffOffReport is open to competitors who purposely write defamatory comments, is a place where disgruntled ex-employees can express anger about being fired, or where unhappy client’s can air their frustration over poor results.
For example, a freelance sales associate for a financial firm misunderstood payment terms, got angry, and decided to share it on RipoffOffReport. A few weeks later, the dispute was resolved, the associate was happy, and apologized for “jumping the gun.” But the damage was already done. Within about a week, the issue shot up to the top of Google search results. Although the sales person acknowledged his mistake in the comments section of RipoffOffReport, it was impossible to delete the whole entry. Also, very few prospects take the time to scroll down the bottom and thoroughly read all the comments. As a result, the business lost money and the online reputation was severally damaged.
Why It’s Important to Repair
Resolving a RipoffReport review is important because it greatly impacts a business’s online reputation. One of the first things a prospective client does is conduct a web search. If something negative shows up, they just move on to a competitor. A relationship with an existing client could be ruined too if they see negative comments. Most people are too busy to investigate the details and see if the issue is true—they don’t call, they usually go and work with someone else.
Return on Investment
The return on investment for resolving a RipoffOffReport problem can be sizable. For example, a small law practice lost $150,000 due to one single review on RipoffOffReport in one year. While this sounds extreme, it actually is average. Each damaging item results in the loss of thirty clients. Of course, this is devastating for a practice.
What NOT to Do
While it’s tempting to jump to action, it’s important to pause. The first feeling is probably rage and anger. “Why did they do this?,” “This is unfair and a complete misunderstanding,” “I know an ex-employee wrote this to get back at me,” or, “A competitor is purposely trying to ruin my company,” are typical responses. But try to remain calm and create a strategy.
One thing not to do is write a rebuttal. Tempting as it may be, adding a reply on RipoffOffReport just makes things worse. It can add “fuel to the fire” causing the original poster to respond with more reviews. Also, and more importantly, it makes the RipoffOffReport review more visible in searches. Google looks at activity as an indicator of where to rank a webpage, so responding to a comment just pushes the problematic link to the top of Google results.
It also might be tempting to retaliate by writing something damaging about the post’s creator—but don’t. This also can draw more attention to the concern, making things worse.
How to Combat a Negative RipoffOffReport Review
There are several options when responding to an item on RiffoffReport. They range from trying to delete the item, taking legal action or suppressing the issue.
Try to Remove
The first approach is to attempt to remove the link. However, this is not possible for several reasons.
Simply put, RipoffOffReport’s policy is that no post is ever removed. Even if the piece is or defamatory or libelous, they will not delete it. They state, “…by submitting a report, they [the user] are creating a permanent record,” making it impossible to redact.
“…every time a report is submitted to us, the author must read and agree to the following terms (under ‘Step 6 – Submit Report’): ‘By posting this report/rebuttal, I attest this report is valid. I am giving RipoffReport irrevocable rights to post it on this website. I acknowledge that once I post my report, it will not be removed, even at my request. Of course, I can always update my report to reflect new developments by clicking on UPDATE.’”
Actually, this is somewhat similar to other sites such as Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, who do not check the accuracy of content from its millions of users. However, most social media sites do offer an easy way to have something removed if there is a problem or if it is offensive: RipoffOffReport does not.
If the author changes their mind and requests to retract it, it still cannot be deleted. RipoffOffReport’s answer is that they can’t determine who is telling the truth in disputes between two parties, so it is left on the internet in perpetuity. The poster, however, can edit the post.
Write a RipoffOffReport Rebuttal
As mentioned above, writing a rebuttal is not a good option. RipoffOffReport suggests this is an excellent opportunity to share the truth about the issue, and is “…a form of free advertising for your company!” However, being associated with “RipoffOffReport” is clearly not a positive form of promotion. Most if not all potential clients seeing Ripoff in the link title will not take the time to read the rebuttal, and will just move on to someone else, making the “advertising” ineffectual. In fact it only draws more attention to the problem, making the negative review more visible.
Posts that Violates Terms of Service
No message is ever removed from RipoffOffReport even if it violates the Terms of Service. RipoffOffReport are not libel for any inaccuracies written by someone else. The only exception is a post that contains specific private or personal material such as social security numbers, bank accounts, or includes mention of violent threats.
Corporate Advocacy Program Option
For a fee, the Corporate Advocacy Program will contact the poster and will try to negotiate a resolution to their complaint. It also provides updates, presents the business’s position and helps with the resolution of the disagreement.
However, the company or practice must abide by some rules. These include: admitting to a mistake, even if untrue; explain how to rectify the matter; fix the problem by giving a refund, replacement, or apology, and quickly resolving it in seven to fourteen days.
If the review was false to begin with, the benefit of this service is limited and even wrong. Many balk at having to admit to a mistake, especially when there wasn’t one. Importantly, the damaging RipoffOffReport link still shows up in Google searches, doing little to convince potential or existing clients of their innocence—especially if they are forced to confess to faults they did not commit.
V.I.P Arbitration Service Option
V.I.P. or Voluntary, Impartial, and Private could be an option. For $2,000, a neutral arbitrator can dispute the accuracy of the facts of the review. If the arbitrator determines that a fact-based statement is false, the statement will be removed. Additionally, the review’s title will be updated saying that the case has been submitted to arbitration, and the arbitrator’s findings will be amended or added.
However, the negative review still will not be removed. The business name and “RipoffReport,” will still show up in searches, and as mentioned above, this is still very damaging to an online reputation. Also, there probably is not enough room in the link to indicate that arbitration has been conducted. Additionally, the arbitration finding is lengthy and confusing. In reality does little to convince a potential client of the business’s innocence. In fact, it looks very condemning.
Revealing Anonymous Author of Review
Since the entries are anonymous, there sometimes is the need to contact the author directly. This can be challenging to do. The First Amendment right to free speech includes the right to remain anonymous. And just because a request is made to reveal the author’s identity doesn’t mean it will be granted.
According to McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 341-42, 115 S.Ct. 1511, 1516, 131 L.Ed.2d 426, 436 (1995), “an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.”
Also, RipoffOffReport has no obligation to reveal the commentator’s identity without a court order. Requesting one is difficult. There must be evidence of libel, proof to refute it, and why the statements are false.
If a court order has been received, a rebuttal must be posted which mentions that a proceeding has been initiated to learn the author’s identity. A case number and name and address of the court must be included. After waiting a reasonable amount of time to for a response, a subpoena can then be obtained. If all these criteria are met, RipoffOffReport.com may or may not oppose the motion. The court then reviews the motion, and all the requirements are followed, the site will be forced to provide the requested information.
As can be seen, this is not an easy process. Besides being time consuming, it is very expensive.
Legal Action Against RipoffOffReport
Taking legal action might seem like an option but it is not advisable. Generally, proving libel is an extremely hard and costly process. Also, RipoffOffReport like many other sites are immune from lawsuits because they host the information and are not the creators of it. Because of this and free speech rights, suing is impossible. Also, having a strongly worded or threatening letter drafted by a lawyer is completely ineffective.
The Communications Decency Act
The Communications Decency Act is a federal law, and says that when a user writes and adds material on an “interactive website,” the site itself cannot be held legally libel. Specifically, 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Also, “Under the CDA, RipoffReport is not liable for the accuracy of statements posted by the users of the site. Therefore, we are not required to remove reports even upon demand.”
Because of the Communications Decency Act, the website has successfully defended more than twenty lawsuits in state and federal courts.
Foreign court rulings are ineffectual against RipoffOffReports.com as well. Because the site is based in the United States, any foreign judgment must ask a U.S. court to honor and enforce their ruling. In 2010, the U.S. adopted a new “anti-libel tourism” law, 28 U.S.C. § 4102, which prevents all U.S. courts from honoring foreign libel or defamation judgments if they conflict with First Amendment free speech rights. The new law specifically prohibits U.S. courts from honoring foreign libel or defamation judgments against website operators if the claims would have been barred under U.S. law.
State and Federal laws generally require that a lawsuit that knowingly contains false claims, or if suit is filed without first conducting a reasonable review of the laws and facts of the case (such as determining the identity of the author), the plaintiff and attorney can be subject to serious sanctions.
Suing the poster might be an option. But lawsuits can take years to resolve and can cost $100,000 or more.
Solution: Online Reputation Management
The best way to combat the issue is using online reputation management. This consists of developing an overall strategy which includes search engine optimization, content creation, and social media.
Creating engaging content consistently will eventually bury the problem, pushing down the dispute off the first or second page of Google. Effectively, it disappears. Since about 95% of searches occur on the first page, many will never see the review if it is suppressed.
The best online reputation management strategy is to develop good, interesting and engaging information geared towards the prospective clients. It could be a recent blog that offers solutions to a specific problem, sharing of an interesting article from a major publication, or the creation of a detailed white paper or presentation. A good strategy might require planning and how to best implement the repair process in a spreadsheet.
Search Engine Optimization Basics
Be sure the name or business is included in all current and new web sites and social media properties. Add it to the About or Contact page of the web site as well as the meta tags and titles for each page. Also update all social media platforms with this information. For LinkedIn, add the name or organization to the Title and have a good headshot profile photograph. These search engine optimization techniques and others might require working with a web developer or other professional.
Writing frequent and informative blogs is probably the best solution to repair a damaged online reputation due to RipOffReport. Always think about how to engage with prospects and potential clients. Write engaging and interesting articles, white papers, blogs, and presentations monthly. Visual material such as photos, infographics and videos uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo are also extremely helpful.
Social Media Solutions
Once the content is created, share it on social media platforms to continue the online reputation repair process. The goal here is to provide interesting, informative and engaging posts so that others will click on links to your website and will want to distribute it to their contacts. The more activity, the more likely the RipOffReport reviews will be pushed down. This is because Google sees social media sharing and posting as important cues to page ranking.
Develop platforms where the clients are. For example, a professional financial consulting practice might focus on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook as well as being active on industry-specific blogs. For those in creative fields such as photographers, designers, etc., Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr might be the priority. Additionally, depending on the business, local search platforms might be very effective.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, this is a long term process. Consistency is crucial to the repair process.
Since deleting the damaging RipOffReport reviews are not an option, focusing on online reputation management and adding good material to suppress the harmful comments is the best solution.
See Related Article: How Poor Online Reputation Management Ruined Business