Steve Strauss, owner of Classic Tree Care in Paola, Kansas, is suing Angie’s List for false advertising and deceptive business practices. Angie’s List is a website that collects ratings and reviews from users about various goods and services providers, such as roofers, plumbers, handymen, mechanics and others.
Customers who use the website typically choose who to hire based on the businesses that are best ranked or endorsed. According to court documents, Strauss alleges that the review service isn’t putting companies high on its list based on ratings. Instead, he claims that Angie’s List is rewarding companies based only on whether or not they have bought advertising and paid additional fees to the website.
Strauss argues that the website violates Federal Trade Commission guidelines on advertising and endorsements, because it doesn’t help members find the best provider, just the provider that pays the most money to the website. “Angie’s List ranks service providers higher than their competitors based on how much they pay the website in advertising and referral fees. Companies that refuse to pay such fees, as a result, end up being ranked lower than a business that chooses to pay,” said Strauss.
He alleges that, in addition to paying for advertising, his company was required to advertise coupons for discounts. When customers used “big deal coupons,” Classic Tree was required to send Angie’s List 25 percent of the gross revenue from the service. In 2012, Strauss changed their advertising to offer other coupons with lower revenue-sharing amounts. The contractor alleges that Angie’s List then instructed its local sales representative to no longer allow his company to promote its services on the website using the coupons.
Strauss claims that he was eventually unfairly kicked off the review website. Angie’s List initially claimed that Classic Tree failed their criminal background check and had “no ratings or reviews,” but later deemed the move an error and apologized to Strauss. Classic Tree was reinstated from 2013 to 2016, but the contractor’s company was buried on the rankings, making it virtually impossible for interested customers to view its services.
Strauss believes that Angie’s List misleads their customers, who reasonably think that the site’s ranking system is organized entirely by other consumers’ experiences.