Complaint sites and reputation management are big business. Ranking for people and companies names, especially when the title is in a negative result gets a lot of traffic.
On the other side when most consumers see their personal information come up in Google with negative information or “feedback” they will pay whatever it takes to get it removed. And when the same site provides both of these as a service, in my opinion, it’s extortion.
I haven’t really ever seen any litigation from the government on these issues but I think we all figured it was coming eventually.
The Federal Trade Commission charged the operators of the website “Jerk.com” with harvesting personal information from Facebook to create profiles labeling people a “Jerk” or “not a Jerk,” then falsely claiming that consumers could revise their online profiles by paying $30. According to the FTC’s complaint, between 2009 and 2013 the defendants, Jerk, LLC and the operator of the website, John Fanning, created Jerk.com profiles for more than 73 million people, including children.
The defendants also told consumers they could “use Jerk to manage your reputation and resolve disputes with people who you are in conflict with,” according to the FTC’s complaint. They allegedly charged consumers $25 to email Jerk.com’s customer service department, and also falsely told consumers that if they paid $30 for a website subscription, they could access “premium features,” including the ability to dispute information posted on Jerk.com, and receive fast notifications and special updates. But according to the FTC, in many cases, consumers who paid the customer service or subscription fee often got nothing in return.
The FTC generally isn’t very proactive about pursuing anything but rather reactively waits and watches consumer complaints about a website or service before it goes after them.
I gotta think the monthly subscription for nothing part was what crossed the line and triggered all the complaints.
Will be interesting to follow. You can read the full press release on the FTC’s website here.
FTC goes after jerk.com for misleading consumers on “people reviews”