Rip-Off Report is a website that encourages anyone who has had an unsatisfactory experience with an individual or a company to post a report telling about their experience. Topics range from complaints about a store's return policy to fraudulent sales and repairs in the auto industry. Even a belief that a person is an underhanded cheater can be posted. The name of the alleged cheater will be published but the complaint can be posted anonymously.
The premise is that by sharing the negative experience with the public, the business will rectify its bad business practices and the underhanded cheater will repent. In theory, this may sound good. In actual practice, many say the Rip-Off Report is in the business of extortion.
The owner of Rip-Off Report states on the home page that he hopes people will be truthful in reporting the facts of what happened to them; however, there are no guarantees or documentation required for a person to "report" a bad business practice or an unscrupulous individual. You can discover this by a visit to the site and a quick read-through of a few of the latest complaints.
One example is a complaint about a property management company illegally keeping security deposits. No proof is submitted to support the allegations. It could be just s a disgruntled person publicly venting.
The Phoenix New Times refers to the Rip-Off Report as "the online equivalent of a megaphone." Unlike newspapers and magazines, online owners are legally not held to any standard of truthfulness and are exempt from libel lawsuits. It is actually the writer of the information who is vulnerable to litigation, not the owner of the website. The owner claims he is just allowing people to use their First Amendment right to free speech and a large majority of the complaints are anonymous.
There is no fee charged to anyone for posting a complaint on the website. A business or person who has been maligned can post a rebuttal and tell their side of the story. All it amounts to is a he said, she said type of arguing between two unhappy entities.
For a fee, the owner of the site will add his comments to the complaint saying the complaint has been found to be false. The fee is charged under the auspices of the individual or business joining the owner's "corporate advocacy program."
Extortion basically means threatening to expose embarrassing information unless the person threatened pays money. According to The People's Credit Bureau, there can be no other term for what the owner of the Rip-Off Report does.
If a person or business does not pay the retainer and monthly fee, whenever there is a Google search for that person or business, there is a link to the complaint posted on the Rip-Off Report. The link is often the first one that comes up in the search. The tendency of the user is to go to the derogatory report first before even visiting the actual website of the business.
In order to have the report removed or for the owner to comment that the report was false or unfounded, the criticized business may be required to pay as much as $50,000 up front and a $5,000 monthly fee just to have the erroneous report "monitored."
Submit Express (SE), which is a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company that also has a division for managing the business reputation, recounts its own experiences with the Rip-Off Report owner. On behalf of a business SE represented, SE asked the owner to remove a totally false report.
The owner responded by saying he would not remove it, but for $20,000 he would "bury" it so it would not be easily found pursuant to a Google search. The client did not give in to the extortion demand and SE proceeded to do major technological changes to the client's website so the offensive report could be pushed to at least the second or third page of the Google search. There was no way to actually remove it.