Monday, July 4, 2011


Who are you?
 is an independent Web-based consumer news and resource center. We are not a government agency, not affiliated with any other consumer organization and not affiliated with any of the corporations whose products are reviewed on our site.

Are you non-profit?
No. We do not receive any taxpayer funds and we do not seek or accept contributions from foundations or corporate interests. Our site is supported solely by advertising.

Is this a government site?

Why are there ads on your site?
The ads are the major source of revenue for our site. Without them, it would not exist in its present form. Our site is very large and handles a lot of traffic each day. It is very expensive to maintain. We also spend a lot of time (and money) fighting off companies that try to shut us down, sue us or intimidate us into silence.

One of the things that makes our country great is a free press, supported almost entirely by advertising. In totalitarian countries, the government controls the press. Bad news.

I see ads for companies that are criticized on your site. What's that all about?
We don't control which ads appear on our site. They are placed by outside agencies. The fact that an ad appears on our site by no means indicates we approve of the product. Same thing's true for an ad in the newspaper, or on television or radio.

This seems wrong. How can you take money to advertise products you don't approve of?
It's a free country. Companies, even the ones we don't much like, have as much right to advertise as we do to publish our site, just as we have the right to publish critical comments about them.

I'd rather depend on a government agency for my news.
Fine. We're not the only game in town and don't want to be. Keep in mind that governments publish an "official" version of the news, which tends to be mostly about what a great job the government has done for you today. If you want to believe that, be our guest.

Why don't you get rid of the ads and raise money from foundations and corporations?
Foundations, especially those backed by big companies, want to control the content of Web sites and publications they underwrite. We have sat at tables where big drug companies dictated, line for line, what a not-for-profit agency would say in a publication financed by a supposed "unrestricted educational grant" from the foundation. This goes on every day. Corporate propaganda disguised as unbiased truth is much worse than advertising, which is at least clearly identified as such.

Are you saying non-profits can't be trusted?
Yes. We have a very low opinion of most supposed non-profit groups, except for those that are legitimate charities. Most Washington non-profits are nothing but lobbying organizations in disguise.

How do I know I can trust you?
You need to read through our site and see if we seem to be brave, courageous, bold, etc., just as you would any other information source you might run across. OK, we're not The New York Times but we're not an infomercial either.

Are you hooked up with lawyers in some way?
Yes, lawyers read the complaints submitted to us by consumers. On occasion, the lawyers will find something they believe could form the basis of a class action suit on behalf of consumers. If a consumer has indicated on their complaint form that they want to be contacted by a lawyer, they then research the issue and, now and then, contact the consumer and file suit on his behalf. Since our founding, hundreds of class action suits have been filed on behalf of consumers. We are not a party to those actions and do not profit from them. Nor do we keep track of each individual suit, so we're not able to provide updates.

I sent you a complaint. How come it hasn't shown up?
We don't publish every complaint we receive. We watch for trends -- consumer problems that seem to be representative, so that someone can read through the site and find situations that he or she might very well encounter. This helps consumers avoid falling into the same trap. At least we hope it does.

Aren't you being terribly unfair and one-sided? Where's the good news?
Well, it is basically a complaint site so, yes, it's mostly complaints. Besides, we don't publish complaints unless we think they are representative of problems others might encounter when making the same kind of purchase. We do, however, publish many submissions in which consumers compliment a business or report that their problem has been resolved. Also, we are happy to consider responses submitted by the companies at issue.

Shouldn't companies have a chance to respond?
We're happy to publish responses. There is a response form companies can use to submit their response.

Isn't your site defamatory? How can you libel businesses like this?
There's no question that some of the comments made by consumers may be upsetting and offensive to business interests. However, it's important to understand that the consumer comments are written by users of our site, not by the site's owners and employees. is an interactive website, enabling members of the public to post comments about their experiences. Even if a user were to post a defamatory comment about you or your business, is entirely immune from any lawsuit based on those comments because of a federal law called the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230 (the CDA).

This federal statute, which was passed by Congress with the intent to promote unfettered speech, provides in relevant part: No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) (emphasis added). Section 230 further provides that [n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section. Green v. America Online, 318 F.3d 465, 470 (3rd Cir. 2003) (noting that the CDA, precludes courts from entertaining claims that would place a computer service provider in a publishers role, and therefore bars lawsuits seeking to hold a service provider liable for its exercise of a publishers traditional editorial functions - such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone, or alter content.)

As one authority has explained:

[The CDAs] provisions set up a complete shield from a defamation suit for an online service provider, absent an affirmative showing that the service was the actual author of the defamatory content. Accordingly, a number of courts have ruled that the ISP was immune from liability for defamation where allegedly libelous statements were made available by third parties through an ISP or were posted by third parties on the servers billboards, as the ISP fell within the scope of 47 U.S.C.A. 230.

What all of this means is very simple if a user of posted something defamatory about you or your business, you have every right to sue that person for what they have said (assuming the statements are actually false and defamatory). However, you cannot sue for any statements posted by its users because the CDA provides immunity to the site absent an affirmative showing that the site itself actually wrote the defamatory statements.

Despite this legal immunity, does occasionally remove or decline to post comments. This is at the sole discretion of our editors, and is also protected by relevant law. If comments about your company appear on our site, you may respond to them through our Company Response Form. Your response should address the subjects raised in the posted comments.

A friend of mine sent you a complaint, then the company took care of him but you didn't remove his complaint. Why not?
First of all, when a complaint is filed it becomes our property, as clearly stated on the complaint form. We are under no obligation to the consumer who sent it to us to remove it just because he changes his mind. To be blunt, this is not an extortion service. If you send us a complaint about the Bucket of Bolts Store and the store owner then sends you a truckload of bolts, that's great for you -- but what about all the other poor boltless wonders he took advantage of? Sorry, that's not what we're here for.

So what should I do if I complain about a company and they then respond and rectify the problem?
You should file a follow-up with us that says just that, using the complaint form. We are delighted to publish follow-up reports.

You say you keep complaints indefinitely in a database. What do you mean?
We categorize complaints -- by vendor, industry, product, geography, etc. -- so we can spot patterns and trends. We think that as time goes by, this will be a great research tool. It's pretty good right now; we regularly spot new problems with various consumer products.

You keep complainants' names?
Of course. We keep the entire complaint. We frequently contact the complainants months later for a follow-up.

Isn't this an invasion of privacy?
Absolutely not. Accountability is the flip side of freedom. See our privacy policy for more information.

I mailed you a written complaint and didn't get a reply. Why not?
We really are a Web-based service. We're not set up to handle written or telephone complaints. We forward the written complaints to the lawyers for their review but at the moment, that's as far as it goes. It would be too labor-intensive and expensive to type them into the database or actually print out a response and mail it. Sorry.

I called to ask you a question and you didn't call me back. Why not?
See above. We're just not able to do this. Sorry.

You ran a story saying that most make-money-at-home schemes are scams, especially if they have anything to do with sending out bills for doctors. But I have found one, Ace Billing Co., that seems legit. What should I do?
We get countless inquiries like this. We really can't respond to them, partly because we don't have time and partly because no one can keep track of which companies are "legit" and which ones aren't. Consumers need to read our site, and others like it, and judge for themselves whether the company's claims sound credible.

I sent an email asking for advice. Why didn't you respond?
Two reasons. The volume of such emails is so great that we simply don't have the resources to respond to them. More important, we are not lawyers and we can't give legal advice. We publish general advice on our Web site and we have a resource guide that can help you find assistance elsewhere.

I saw some complaints on your site that are similar to mine. Can you put me in touch with those people so we can start a class action lawsuit?
No. Our privacy policy doesn't permit us to do this. Besides, this really isn't how class actions happen. It takes an experienced, well-heeled consumer law firm to mount a class action, not a group of individuals. Class actions are very expensive to prosecute and in many cases, a lawsuit is simply not feasible for any number of reasons. In most cases, consumers are better off going to Small Claims Court, often the simplest and most inexpensive remedy.

I went to a company's website and saw your logo, what is that?
We accredit businesses that agree to adhere to the Code of Good Business Practices and those businesses are able to use the Accredited Seal on their website and in other marketing materials.

What is an accredited business?
Accredited businesses are companies that agree to adhere to the Code of Good Business Practices. Accredited businesses are able to use the Accredited Seal on their website and in other marketing materials. Accredited businesses are required to respond to consumers through our managed process.

Why do you charge for accreditation?
We have finite resources and need to pay for the costs of keeping our website online and for managing the process by which accredited businesses are able to respond to consumers.

Why would accredit businesses that have complaints about them?
Our mission is to help consumers make the right decisions. No company, no matter how committed to their customers, is perfect. By accrediting businesses, we help consumers find businesses that are committed to treating customers right. Furthermore, by providing these businesses with a managed process to respond to consumers with complaints, we help businesses engage consumers when there is a problem.

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