Ripoff Report


Ripoff Report

Infobox Website
name = Rip-Off Report



caption =
url = http://www.ripoffreport.com/
commercial =
type = Consumer
language = English
registration =
owner =
author = Ed Magedson
launch date =
current status = Online
revenue =

The Rip-off Report (ROR) is a privately-owned and operated consumer rights activist website with the stated purpose of giving consumers a voice in disputes with corporations and public figures. Aggrieved individuals are asked to submit their complaints, and, after being screened for personal information and curse words (which are redacted), those statements are posted online with the expectation that public exposure will apply pressure to the targeted businesses. The administrator of Rip-off Report, Ed Magedson, solicits descriptions of scams and rip-off claims and publishes those reports as examples of corporate fraud.

Background

The Rip-off Report has been described as "the National Enquirer" cite journal
first =Jocelyn
last =S
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2006
month =July 8
title =Ripoff Report - A Great Place to Check Out Before You Get Scammed
journal =itsbadbusiness.com
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.itsbadbusiness.com/2006/07/ripoff_report_a_great_place_to.html
] of watchdog sites; with its aggressive headlines and eye-catching graphics, the website can draw attention to the alleged offenders. Many users enjoy the opportunity to vent online; the site gives the impression that claims may get eventual media attention and/or legal action. The site claims to have helped consumers settle their disputes with the offending companies, and, given the high-profile nature of the Rip-off Report on several search engines, those claims carry some weight. However, some companies have sued or threatened to sue Magedson for false statement and libel but Federal Law provides all websites an exemption from liability for the postings of others (see next paragraph). The site cannot differentiate between documented incidents of bad business and empty claims posted.

One aspect of Rip-off Report that distinguishes it from similar sites is that in general, Reports are never taken down or removed. "(See Criticism and lawsuits section below)" The Rip-off Report and Magedson appear to be within their rights on this point since the Federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) creates an absolute legal "safe harbor" for websites and blogs where the content is posted by others. See CDA, Section 230 at 47 USC § 230. However, Rip-off Report employees do occasionally append "Editor's Suggestions" to Ripoff Reports written by others -- the most common suggestions involve how to challenge a charge to the author's bank account or credit card. Though not required by the CDA, anyone who feels a Rip-off Report has not gotten the facts straight, or has otherwise mischaracterized a person's activities, can file a Rebuttal to the initial Report. Such Rebuttals are free and are meant to counter any inaccurate information on the site. To explain why he does not remove Reports, Magedson states, "This is the 21st Century ... We all have to get used to getting blogged ... good, bad or indifferent, it is not going away."

An example of this is George S. May International Company. GSM scams small to medium sized business owners through offering consulting services without clear disclosure of costs. (see http://www.georgesmayscam.com) Once Rip-off report received pressure from the company they took down the complaints. It is unknown if money changed hands for this removal.

Criticism and lawsuits

Rip-off Report allows consumers to post complaints anonymously. The accused companies are allowed to post rebuttals. Rip-off Report's high rankings in the Internet search engines lead to frustration by some companies who feel they are being victimized by complaints that may or may not have any merit.

Rip-off Report does not allow complaints about its own services. However, there are a number of allegations against Ed Magedson and the Rip-off Report which are easily found online. Several sites have been erected which attack Rip-off Report and Magedson. Also many allegations have been posted on Internet message boards.

Corporate Advocacy and Remediation Program

At least one lawsuit alleges that Magedson manipulates information found on the Rip-off Report, and attempts to extort money from companies in exchange for removing (or editing) complaints posted. It also alleges that Magedson posts libelous statements about them if they do not comply. Magedson states that these claims are all false and are the result of reported people and businesses trying to show that he wrote some of the questioned content so that the Communications Decency Act's "safe harbor" provision does not apply.

The Phoenix New Times explains that at least 30 companies now pay Magedson to mitigate bad reports on Ripoff Report. Ripoff Report offers the "Corporate Advocacy and Remediation Program". cite web
title =CAP Program on RipOffReport.com.
work =ripoffreport.com
url =http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/ripoff167471.htm
accessdate=2007-10-05
] Businesses pay Magedson a fee, plus a monthly retainer. And in exchange, Magedson makes "EDitor's comments" next to complaints — pointing out that the company, as part of the program, has agreed to give a full refund to aggrieved consumers, that the number of complaints may not be out-of-line with the size of the company and pointing out any claims against the company he considers false. Magedson's litigation attorney, Maria Crimi Speth, states there is a sliding fee scale for interested businesses, depending on the number of complaints the businesses have on Ripoff Report and many other factors, and that the price can be as low as a few hundred dollars per month. Court files documents and several business owners who spoke to the Phoenix New Times, state that joining the "Corporate Advocacy and Remediation Program" was offered for some businesses at more than $50,000 and there's a monthly retainer fee in addition. Critics argue how can Magedson accept payment from the same companies that he claims to be fighting, especially when he was once so critical of the Better Business Bureau for doing the same thing. Magedson claims the big difference is that he gets all the complaining consumers their money back. cite journal
first =Sarah
last =Fenske
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2007
month =February 1
title =The Real Rip-Off Report
journal = Phoenix New Times
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2007-02-01/news/the-real-rip-off-report/
page 5 ]

The Phoenix New Times further explains that in a deposition Magedson "seemed to admit under oath that he'd removed the complaint" of a company which was part of the corporate advocacy program.

Lawsuits

Some companies have sued (or expressed the intention to file suit against) Magedson. cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =
month =
title =Bad-business-rip-off.com
journal =
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.bad-business-rip-off.com/
Website by Federated Financial] cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =
month =
title = International Creative Artists, Helene Goldnadel, ezbc.com and ripoffreport.com lawsuit
journal =ezripofflawsuit
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.ezripofflawsuit.com/
] cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =
month =
title =Carmel Cafiero: "Risky Business"
journal =WSVN Orlando Fox 7News www.bad-business-rip-off.net
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.bad-business-rip-off.net/7news-ripoffreport.wmv
video ] cite journal
first =Nydia
last =Han
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2006
month =November 28
title =Consequences of Complaining Online An Action News Consumer Special Report
journal =6ABC WPVI-TV Philadelphia
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=consumer&id=4804312
] cite journal
first =Danielle
last =Serino
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2006
month =November 29
title =Consumer Alert: Ripoff Report
journal =19ActionNews
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.19actionnews.com/Global/SearchResults.asp?qu=ripoff
(Video) [current no results for "ripoffreport"] ] cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2007
month =February 20
title = Elderly Couple Scammed Trying To Put Their Business Online
journal =WOIO 19ActionNews
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.woio.com/global/video/popup/pop_player.asp?ClipID1=1249957&h1=Elderly%20Couple%20Scammed%20Trying%20to%20Put%20Their%20Business%20Online&vt1=v&at1=News&d1=218667&LaunchPageAdTag=Business&activePane=info&playerVersion=1&hostPageUrl=http%3A//www.woio.com/Global/SearchResults.asp%3Fvendor%3Dwss%26qu%3Dbusiness+online&rnd=30110744
[video link broken] ]

At any given moment there are always a few suits pending against Rip-off Report due to its national presence and large readership. However, it is interesting to note that two of the most acrimonious lawsuits, both of which had gone on for over two years have been settled. Those two suits are: HyCite Corp. v. badbusinessbureau.com, 418 F. Supp. 2d 1142 (D. Arizona 2005)(The Plaintiff properly alleged RICO (racketeering activity) as it relates to removal or editing of Rip-off Reports) and George S. May International Co. v. Xcentric Ventures, LLC, 409 F. Supp. 2d 1052 (N.D. Ill. 2006)(Plaintiff whose reputation was tarnished by allegations of fraud and child pornography could properly bring the action in Illinois). As with most others who sued, both made claims of extortion. Both of the settlements were in Rip-off Report's favor: they made payments for Rip-off Report's legal bills and joined the Corporate Advocacy Program (CAP) -- which their lawsuits had alleged was the means of extortion.Fact|date=August 2008Both of these companies made similar statements to the effect that they had just listened to others who were suing and their attorneys. When they looked into CAP themselves, they saw it was just a business program -- good for consumers, the business and, obviously, Rip-off Report -- which is an alternative to filing rebuttals to Reports (which as stated above is free). In the case of George S. May, the CEO of the company stated that he wished he had looked into the litigation sooner because when he did, he immediately wanted to join CAP because it was a great program and no different from the consulting services that his company offers. He has admitted that he and his company has just gotten caught up in an anti-Rip-off Report frenzy that was stirred up by others who were mainly just saying bad things about Ed Magedson and Rip-off Report hoping that some of them would "stick."Fact|date=August 2008

Several people and businesses listed on Ripoff Report have allegedly hired the Defamation Action League, an organization run by William L. "Bill" Stanley (possibly a pseudonym), who is listed as one of the world's top 200 spammers, cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =
month =
title =William L. "Bill" Stanley
journal =spamhaus.org
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.spamhaus.org/rokso/listing.lasso?-op=cn&spammer=William%20Stanley%20/%20Ironserver.com
] to attempt to make Magedson and his business partners remove specific reports. In return, Magedson filed a lawsuit under RICO. On June 21, 2007 a preliminary injunction was granted against DefamationAction.com and ComplaintRemover.com. Stanley and his associates were found liable for defamation and making death threats. Robert Russo, who claims not to be part of the Stanley group -- but who does own ComplaintRemover.com, has filed an answer, defenses and a counter-suit in the case, which is in progress. cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =
month =
title =Docket case nr. 2:2007cv00954: Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Ed Magedson vs William Stanley, Robert Russo, QED Media Group, L.L.C., Defamation Action League and Internet Defamation League
journal =Arizona District Court
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://dockets.justia.com/docket/court-azdce/case_no-2:2007cv00954/case_id-344869/
] cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2007
month =June 29
title =Police Blotter: Dark side of 'reputation defending' service
journal =CNET News.com
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://news.com.com/2100-1030_3-6194158.html
]

References

External links

* [http://www.ripoffreport.com Rip-off Report]
*cite journal
first =Bob
last =Sullivan
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2006
month = January 6
title =Scam-fighting Web Sites
journal =MSNBC.com
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://redtape.msnbc.com/2006/01/web_sites_i_wou.html

* cite journal
first =Vanessa
last =Richardson
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2006
month =February 24
title =Rebates everywhere, but where's the money? Getting your cash back can be frustrating, but it can be done
journal =MSNBC.msn.com
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11497159/


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