Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Livery cab company busted for bribing riders with discounts in exchange for good reviews

December 6, 2016

As published by the NY Daily News on December 1, 2016.

One of the city’s largest livery cab company got dinged $75,000 by the New York attorney general’s office for giving riders discounts in exchange for good reviews on sites like Yelp.

Carmel Car & Limousine Service sent 161,000 emails between May 5 and July 27 asking passengers for feedback on a recent ride. If the riders picked “perfect” or “good,” they’d be sent to a consumer-review site for a chance to get $10 off their next trip in exchange for a positive post.

If they thought the ride was “bad,” there’d be no discount reward for the rider, who would be directed to Carmel’s site to leave a comment, according to the AG’s office.

Carmel cooperated with the Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and agreed to get the word out to the livery cab industry against false advertising.

“Their efforts to educate other companies about unlawful incentives in customer reviews will help create a more transparent industry,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

More than 500 people wrote nearly 700 reviews on Yelp and Google, as well as on Carmel’s app page on Apple iTunes and Google Play, according to a spokesman for Schneiderman.

“Carmel, a small independent business, made an honest mistake of a narrow and limited marketing scope,” said company spokeswoman Anat Gerstein.

Schneiderman’s office also reached a $100,000 settlement from Medrite Care, an urgent care company, for paying ad companies to post glowing reviews on consumer sites over the past two years. The fine will be cut to $50,000 if it complies with the settlement terms.

The attorney general’s office alleged Medrite paid an ad company $375 for 15 positive reviews on Yelp, CitySearch and other sites. The company also hired freelance writers to pump out reviews for up to $15 a piece, according to the attorney general.

A Medrite rep did not respond to a request for comment.