Google is taking aim to shut down fake reviews, specifically targeting ones supporting faux businesses. The company filed a lawsuit today in California courts directed at Ethan QiQi Hu as well as GMBEye, Rafadigital, LLC, and Doe to stop deceptive practices to create legit-looking businesses with great reviews in order to sell the non-businesses.
Fake reviews have been a nuisance to consumers for years, creating a false sense of confidence in a purchase as customers compare products and services. Some make a living off of writing reviews for products and services they’ve never used before, tricking potential customers into thinking they’re about to make a great purchase, which often turns out to be trash.
Ethan QiQi Hu stands accused of creating and listing over 350 fake business profiles on Google platforms, backed up with more than 14,000 false reviews, and selling them “to real businesses to lure in unsuspecting customers.
Some of his business profiles include fake listings for garage repair, tree cutting, plumbing, and “essential oils for verifying fake aromatherapy and reiki therapy” businesses.
In the lawsuit, Google claims, “Over the past two years, Defendants – led primarily by a single individual, Ethan QiQi Hu – have abused Google products to create fake online listings for businesses that do not exist, and to bolster them with fake reviews from people who do not exist.”
The lawsuit goes on to outline how QiQi Hu and others “sell these listenings, and the inquiries from confused consumers who are lured in by them, to individuals and entities looking to promote their businesses on Google platforms.”
The defendants stand accused of using Google to scam consumers and affecting small businesses by making “unsubstantiated and impossible claims about their ability to guarantee a favorable position in Google’s search results and implying preferential treatment or access with respect to certain Google processes.”
Ethan QiQi Hu is listed as GMBEye’s owner and Rafadigital’s owner, registered agent, and manager. As for Doe, Google had yet to identify the names and positions of those involved and is suing the entity under “fictitious names” until such information is uncovered.
Google is seeking to block Ethan QiQi Hu from continuing his scam in addition to seeking unspecified monetary damages. The accused has yet to make a statement on the matter.