September 24, 2018 / 8:01 PM / a year ago

Avvo settles New York probe, to reform lawyer ratings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York’s attorney general on Monday said U.S. lawyer review website Avvo had agreed to reform its rating system and improve disclosures after a probe revealed shortcomings in how it presented information to consumers seeking to hire lawyers.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood said Avvo, a Seattle-based unit of Internet Brands Inc, will no longer call its ratings “unbiased.”

She also said Avvo was now “clearly and conspicuously” telling users that its ratings, on a one to 10 scale, rely on information that lawyers provide, meaning that lawyers who share their resumes or work experiences tend to rate higher than those who do not.

“When seeking legal advice, consumers most often turn to the internet - and directories like this have an obligation to ensure consumers know what they’re getting,” Underwood said.

The attorney general said Avvo also agreed to remove ratings for lawyers who do not actively participate in its directory, and will ensure that forms it posts for consumers are first reviewed by qualified, licensed lawyers in New York.

Avvo will also pay $50,000 to cover costs.

In a statement, Avvo said it was committed to providing “timely, accurate information” to help people find lawyers, and the changes reflected its “commitment to pro-consumer practices and improving the accessibility of the legal community.”

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Tom Brown and Rosalba O'Brien

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