The New York Attorney General's Office recently settled with Avvo, the attorney rating service, over claims that Avvo misled consumers about the nature of the attorney ratings featured on its website.  

The NYAG alleged that Avvo didn't disclose that attorneys who voluntarily provided information to Avvo would typically receive higher ratings than those who didn't.  The NYAG also alleged that, as a result, Avvo misled consumers by calling the reviews "unbiased."  

As part of Avvo's settlement with the NYAG, Avvo agreed to clearly and conspicuously disclose the basis and limitations for its ratings and to stop referring to its reviews as "unbiased."  Avvo also agreed to remove ratings for lawyers who don't agree to participate in Avvo.  In addition, Avvo paid $50,000 to cover the costs of the NYAG's investigation. 

Transparency about online reviews -- in many different contexts -- continues to be an important issue for both federal and state regulators.  When using online reviews, it's important to consider whether there are material connections, or other important qualifying information, that should be disclosed in order to prevent the use of the review from misleading consumers.