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FTC and Six State AGs Sue Room and Roomate-Finder Site Roomster for Misleading Reviews, Listings

  • The FTC and the AGs of six states have sued the online room and roommate finder platform Roomster, as well as corporate officers John Shriber and Roman Zaks (collectively “Roomster”), and also named Jonathan Martinez as a co-defendant, over allegations that Roomster violated §5(A) of the FTC Act and state statutes by hosting thousands of false reviews relating to properties listed on its site.
  • According to the complaint, which seeks injunctive and monetary relief, Roomster falsely claimed to provide “authentic” and “verified” listings of rental properties, room rentals, sublets, and roommate requests; in reality, however, Roomster did not verify the listings and even used false listings to attract consumers to its site. Additionally, Roomster allegedly purchased tens of thousands of fake online reviews from co-defendant Martinez to entice consumers, the majority of whom were students, lower-income individuals or people seeking safe, low-cost housing in tight rental markets.
  • Pursuant to a proposed stipulated final order resolving the allegations against Martinez, Martinez is enjoined from further unlawful conduct and will cooperate with the FTC in its ongoing case against Roomster. He must also notify the Apple and Google app stores of the deceptive reviews and identify them and provide the times they were posted. Additionally, Martinez must pay a total of $100,000 to the six individual state plaintiffs in the suit.