Running a consumer complaint site has its problems. For one, unhappy companies and individuals will use a variety of methods to get negative reviews
taken down, including bogus defamation and copyright claims. So, you safeguard against that by refusing to take reviews down for any reason. Companies will also make threats against reviewers, so you block that by taking that option away from reviewers.
But this all has to be enforced within the limitations of the law. Fortunately, Section 230 deflects a lot of this potential damage by shielding sites from being held liable for third-party content. It's not bulletproof, but it's a start. Of course, some complaint sites go overboard. RipoffReports has itself been criticized for leveraging these protective policies
into a revenue stream by charging users high fees for complaint removals.
But not every complaint site exists to provide a valuable service to consumers. Some are just there to provide a soapbox for anyone unhappy about anything
. There's no focus, no attempt to vet reviews or reviewers and nothing indicating there's any real oversight of the platform.
ComplaintsBureau is one of the latter. Here's the "review" that was sitting at the top of the page
when I visited it on Jan. 25th.
OCTAVIAN P. OF CHICAGO, IL -WEST SIDE IS KNOWINGLY SPREADING STD(S) AND SLEEPING AROUND.
Others are run-of-the-mill complaints about bad businesses, bad tenants and other unsatisfactory entities. But it's ComplaintsBureau's actions in retaliation for takedown attempts that really sets it apart from the Yelps of the internet. Adam Steinbaugh recently tweeted
out the following link to a Better Business Bureau complaint
about (sort of) ComplaintsBureau:
Charged monthly membership - did not honor cancellation.
Experian online Credit( www.experien.com) offers a $1 Credit Report &Score. I did that & then same day cancelled my membership - Nine days later (two days after the free trial membership) they charged me a $19.95 monthly fee and when I called on 11/20/2014, they won't refund. With Only 2 days into what they are calling my membership month - and they wont even consider a partial refund. This is slimmy and false advertising...membership programs are such a scam!!!
Re: Case XXXXXXXX / **** *****
We have tried to go to the BBB site there is no where to post, the url you sent us for that complaint don't work.
This was clearly a false complaint by **** *****. **** ***** was billed for $10,900.00 USD for filing a false DMCA complaint, Complaints Bureau did file a DMCA counter-notification to have the complaint restored. Then Complaints Bureau has sent her bill to Experian on 10/16/2014 that was pass due
The reponse has nothing to do with the complaint, but it appears ComplaintsBureau's owner -- Scott Breitenstein -- rejected a DMCA takedown notice and billed the sender $10,900, following it up by reporting this person to Experian. What it has to do with this
particular complaint remains open for debate, but Breitenstein's standard MO prizes aggression over intelligence. The "response" quotes CB's policy in full, as noted under its "Non-Disparagement" heading on its "DMCA Procedures
" page (for reasons only known to Breitenstein).
While it's good to know the site will stand up to bogus takedown requests ("If you would like to show up at a jurisdiction of Federal District Court , I would be more than happy to meet you in a courtroom, just bring a toothbrush for the prison sentence.
" [LOL]), its other practices are more questionable, including its legally-unsound issuance of a bill for $10,900 for rejected DMCA takedowns. This ridiculous amount -- coupled with reporting to credit agencies -- puts ComplaintsBureau in the same shady company with others who have inserted dubious non-disparagement clauses
in their Terms of Service pages.
But that isn't the extent of the site (and site owner's) questionable behavior. Steinbaugh notes that a bogus review of him
went up shortly after Breitenstein found out Steinbaugh planned to write about the ComplaintsBureau owner's foray into the revenge porn field. Under the infamous "STD Carriers" tag, there's a "review" that includes nude photos of a supposed "carrier." An angry email from the person "reviewed" demanding the removal of these photos was met with this response from Breitenstein
Subject: DMCA-CASE#979968-Notice of unauthorized use of Rebekah Wells
From: "Scott Breitenstein" <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, June 17, 2014 9:45 pm
As pertaining to your balls being bigger than mine, we can see that this is true, by looking at your photos!!! By the way, you didn't send an electronic signature with the proper DMCA notice.You also didn't include your home address, so we can file the proper paperwork, for submission. This makes this notice invalid. If you want to send it to the proper address, send it to : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Normally, all content is copyrighted, when submitted to complaints bureau. If you file a DMCA takedown, you need to follow through completely because complaints bureau will file a counter-claim to have it restored and you will be billed $10,900.00 for the costs. Once you file a DMCA, you have 10-14 days to file suit against complaints bureau. If you fail to file, within this time frame, the complaint will be restored, forever. You will be billed $10,900.00 for the costs. You then have 30 days to pay this. If you don't pay in this time frame, we will submit it to a collection agency, thereby affecting your credit. It will also be reported to all of the major credit bureaus.
We are not anything like other site's, that you have had complaints removed from. We are a real and genuine Complaints Bureau. We will not back down to idle threats and pressure to simply remove content. You also might want to consult an attorney, before you make a bad move. We will publish this email, under our legal threats section.
Site against woman whos against revenge porn
Go fuck yourself.
Polite as usual,
Note that the signature (Dzianis Mohamed) doesn't match the email header. Breitenstein appears to use multiple names in an attempt to portray his site as being more legitimate than it actually is -- i.e., an entity with several employees. The response posted to his own site
doesn't even bother to strip the telltale email header.
The preemptive strike masquerading as a review of Adam Steinbaugh
claimed (among other things) that he destroyed the apartment he was living in and had been arrested for molesting a minor. None of these things are true, but they live on at ComplaintsBureau, as related by the obviously fictional landlord "Sharon Eakins
." Steinbaugh noted the oddly coincidental timing of one of his tweets and this review's appearance in his response to the bogus review.
Third, a mere three days before this was posted, I posted Mr. Breitenstein's photo on my Twitter feed and noted that I was going to be writing about this site, because Mr. Breitenstein had the classy idea of running a revenge porn forum here.
It would be the next logical step for the "STD Carriers" tag, considering most of them feature links to ShesAHomewrecker.com, a site bordering on revenge porn, but lacking the volume of explicit photos needed to push it firmly into that territory. It's a "revenge" site alright, but the "porn" part is very limited.
The site's confrontational tone has mistaken "being an aggro asshole" for "protecting consumers' rights." The STD section serves no purpose other than to give some people an excuse to drag others' names through the mud (with pictures). Sure, Section 230 protects ComplaintsBureau, but it won't do much for those posting defamatory reviews on Breitenstein's site.
Between the fake rep names, the fake reviews, the revenge porn-esque "STD Carrier" tag and its own bogus legal threats/defenses (see also: the Dayton, OH-located Breitenstein pretending to be a French company
in response to a takedown request), ComplaintsBureau is a disaster masquerading as a consumer's champion. There's a lot of shadiness here, including its $10,900 non-disparagement fee that has very little to do with disparagement and everything to do with heading off people who might have legitimate removal requests. To top things off, ComplaintsBureau claims to be owned
by "Vestron Video Media," a defunct home video distributor
that ceased operations more than 20 years ago. (Meanwhile, its site registration data lists a company called "The Council of Complaints Bureau, Inc." as the Admin Organization.)
ComplaintsBureau loves complaining customers (and jilted exes) but doesn't care much for people drawing attention to the terrible tactics it deploys. A legitimate consumer complaints site doesn't need bogus fines and expletive-filled letters to protect its content from outside interference. ComplaintsBureau is all noise and no substance, and of use to only Scott Breitenstein.