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Roomster has been sued by the FTC and six state AGs for fake listings and fake app store reviews

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with six states, has sued John Schriber and Roman Jax, owners of room rental and roommate finder platform Roomster, for allegedly defrauding consumers and tricking people into buying fake reviews and listings. their site. The agency said the “deceptive tactics” violated the FTC Act and state laws.

The complaint, filed by the FTC and the attorneys general of New York, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts, alleges that Roomster “released tens of thousands of fake positive reviews. The Roomster platform is genuine, available and verified. Roomster posted and existed fake listings on Craigslist to drive traffic to its platform.” They are also accused of charging fees to those who ask for information on non-existent listings.

The FTC alleges that Jonathan Martinez, who runs a site called AppWinn, was an accomplice in the scheme. The FTC alleges that Roomster asked Martinez for the many five-star reviews he provided using more than 2,500 iTunes accounts. In emails from Roomster to Martinez, cited in the complaint, the FTC asked him to “make sure it’s always a random number of reviews, so it looks more natural.” .

Martinez signed a proposed settlement with the FTC, saying that in addition to his cooperation with prosecutors, he would pay a $100,000 fine that goes to six states, prohibit him from selling reviews and endorsements, and notify both the Apple App Store and Google. The Play Store paid Roomster to post these reviews, and identify “fake reviews and the approximate times they were posted.”

“Although the Roomster Defendants claim that their Roomster platform provides ‘verified’ and ‘authentic’ living arrangement listings, in many cases it does not,” the FTC and AGs write. “Instead the Roomster Defendants relied on fake reviews (thousands of which were purchased from Defendant Martinez alone) and fake listings to get consumers to access rental information that was unverified and, in many cases, non-existent.”

In addition to false reviews, Roomster labels “verified listings” on its site, the complaint said. In one case, the FTC found in its investigation that “the company immediately accepted and published a fake listing for a fictitious apartment at the same address as a US Post Office commercial facility.”

The FTC is investigating Roomster as part of a crackdown on online platforms that mislead consumers on the Internet. In January, the FTC fined online clothing retailer Fashion Nova $4.2 million for misleading customers through reviews and endorsements. After enforcing the fine, Fashion Nova neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.

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