Carl Hessler Jr., Main Line Media News
PHILADELPHIA — In an out-of-the-ordinary civil court battle that alleges Internet defamation, an Upper Merion stone materials company accused a West Chester competitor of posting fake customer reviews about the company on consumer websites.
Colonial Marble & Granite, West Church Road, Upper Merion, filed the defamation and false advertising suit in U.S. District Court against AAA Hellenic Marble Inc., of East Market Street, West Chester, and Nicholas Alexiadas, a Hellenic employee, and his wife, Jessica Alexiadas, of Exton.
Also listed as defendants in the suit are several John and Jane Does, unknown individuals who “collectively conspired” with AAA Hellenic and the Alexiadases “to engage in an anonymous and fraudulent advertisement campaign over the World Wide Web” designed to destroy Colonial, according to the suit.
The companies are competitors in the stone fabrication and installation industry.
Specifically, the suit alleged the defendants falsely posed as former customers of Colonial by creating fake profiles on consumer review websites and then used the sites as platforms to “spread false statements” concerning Colonial’s products and services.
The suit alleged that some of the fake customer reviews included statements such as, “Worst Service In The World” and “Do Not Shop Here! Terrible Service.”
Colonial suffered significant loss of business because of the false postings and was injured in terms of “lost reputation” and “lost earnings, revenue and income,” the suit alleged.
The suit seeks damages in excess of $150,000, plus punitive damages, which are awarded to punish defendants, to deter such conduct in the future and to set an example for others who might be tempted to engage in similar alleged conduct.
Colonial is represented by lawyers David P. Heim of the Philadelphia firm Bochetto & Lentz, and George M. Nikolaou of King of Prussia.
“Hopefully, this will send notice to anyone who posts lies on the Internet that they cannot hide behind stage names and must be held accountable for what they post,” Nikolaou, referring to the suit, said on behalf of Colonial President Nikos Papadopoulos.
Tom Gakis, owner of AAA Hellenic, referred all questions regarding the lawsuit to his lawyer, Alex Giribaldi.
“We vehemently deny that AAA has done any of the stuff that is alleged in the complaint. We believe that once we go through the discovery process it is going to show that our client, AAA, did nothing. I don’t know why he is being targeted,” Giribaldi said on behalf of Gakis and Hellenic. “My client had nothing to do with this. We are contemplating a possible lawsuit of our own but we haven’t determined yet at this point.”
Giribaldi does not represent the Alexiadases.
But Nicholas Alexiadas, who works as a manager at Hellenic, adamantly denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit.
“My wife and I didn’t have anything to do with what they are accusing us of. I never wrote anything bad about anybody,” said Nicholas Alexiadas, indicating he is consulting with lawyers for representation.
In the suit, Colonial alleged the defendants, by utilizing fake profiles, were able to conceal their true identities and make it seem to casual Internet viewers that the customer reviews were actually real Colonial customers dissatisfied with their service.
“Defendants concocted their scheme with the intent of confusing consumers about the quality of Colonial’s products, and with the intent of gaining an unfair competitive advantage in the market place,” Heim alleged in the suit on behalf of Colonial.