FTC, states sue rental listing platform for fraud
On August 30, the FTC announced a lawsuit, together with the attorneys general from New York, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts, against a rental listing platform and its owners for allegedly charging consumers for false endorsements and fake listings. The complaint, which alleges violations of the FTC Act and various state laws, claims that the defendants used both fake reviews and fake listings to lure consumers to its platform and pay for access to so-called “verified and authentic living arrangement listings.” In particular, one of the individual defendants is alleged to have deceptively promoted the platform “by providing tens of thousands of fake four- and five-star reviews” to app stores. That individual defendant stipulated to the entry of a proposed stipulated final order on the same day, which requires the following: (i) cooperation with the FTC’s ongoing action; (ii) informing the app stores that he was paid to post reviews and identify the fake reviews and when they were posted; (iii) a permanent ban from selling or misrepresenting consumer reviews or endorsements; and (iv) payment of a total of $100,000 to the state AGs.
The action is part of the FTC’s on-going efforts to address fake and deceptive reviews, which include a $4.2 million action taken against an online fashion retailer accused of suppressing negative reviews, and warnings issued in 2021 to more than 700 companies announcing that they may face fines over misleading online endorsements (covered by InfoBytes here and here).