Everyone has heard the saying “the customer is always right.” Taken a bit out of context, this seems to ring true on consumer complaint website Ripoff Report – even when one of its users is completely in the wrong, by posting false and defamatory information about a business.
In its attempt to give a voice to the dissatisfied consumer, Ripoff Report has enacted a strict policy, through which it refuses to remove from its website any posting, no matter how inaccurate, disparaging or damaging it may be. This includes scenarios in which authors admit to the wrongdoing and would even be willing to take down their defamatory postings, if actually permitted by Ripoff Report.
This is problematic for many businesses, as the website’s refusal to delete problematic content exposes companies endlessly to unfair negative publicity. Furthermore, Ripoff Report ranks very high in search engines, with a domain authority of 83/100, according to Open Site Explorer. This means, for any Ripoff Report post that shows up among the first search results on Google or another search engine, it is extremely difficult to push that page lower in the search results. Getting material listed above highly-ranked Ripoff Report content would require the company to be posted about on major websites and online publications, such as CNN, Fox News, and The New York Times.
There are several strategies that have been used in these situations, including: paying an online reputation management firm to help push down the report; partaking in Ripoff Report’s VIP Arbitration Program, which can lead to redacting portions of a post but not complete removal; posting a rebuttal, which, if done correctly, appears below the original report; and attempting to sue Ripoff Report itself, although to date, companies have been unsuccessful doing so. Each of these strategies has significant drawbacks.
However, there is another approach to dealing with defamation on Ripoff Report, which we have found to be most effective: obtaining a court order that states the online report contains false or defamatory information, and ultimately having Google and other search engines delist the page from its search engine indices.
To get a Ripoff Report post removed from a search engine, the first step is filing a legitimate lawsuit against the report’s original author. In our experience, we have obtained court orders via default judgments, court judgments, and through agreements with the defendants. Once a judgment or settlement has been reached, and a court order has been obtained, the court order must be presented to the search engine. Based on their policy, Google, for example, will typically honor this court order – although it is not legally required. By honoring the court order and removing the content from its search index, the defamatory content cannot be found via search. It may still exist on the Ripoff Report, but a user will be unable to find the report in a company search, and the threat of further damage will be all but eliminated.
While having search engines remove defamatory material from search indices is the best solution, it is crucial that a complaint is filed before the statute of limitations expires. The statutes of limitations are one year in most states, but it varies by jurisdiction. Thus, it is critical to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Ripoff Report’s trademarked slogan is “Don't let them get away with it,” speaking, of course, to unhappy consumers. But, if your business is the actual victim of a Ripoff Report, make sure authors of defamatory statements don’t get away with harming your reputation.