Yelp has been taking some heat in 2014. Yelp was allegedly strong arming businesses to pay for ads, or else it would simply refuse to show positive reviews.
A lawsuit was filed and made it’s way all the way to federal appeals court. The Wall Street Journal reported that the case was tossed out. The lawsuit was part of a class action claim that small business owners that Yelp basically attempted to extort them by either paying for their “ad campaign” or find that they would have their favorable reviews pulled or pushed down on its site.
The court ruled that business owners are not really entitled to have any specific types of reviews, positive or negative, appear on in their business listing on Yelp’s site.
Yelp has certainly been accused by various business owners that their “ad” sales team try to coerce and strong arm potential clients, by allegedly removing positive reviews from their page if the business owner doesn’t subscribe to their ad campaign. Yelp claims they do not do that type of thing and it displays reviews through an algorithm and isn’t manipulated by employees.
If these claims were even to be determined to be true, the court ruling meaning spells out that the business owners are not really being extorted and Yelp is not in violation of federal law.
The Federal Judge over the case explained that the law does not require Yelp to publish positive reviews at all:
By withholding the benefit of these positive reviews Yelp is withholding a benefit that Yelp makes possible and maintains. It has no obligation to do so, however.
The class action attorney, Lawrence Murray, recommends that Yelp users should consider the very integrity and trust of Yelp’s reviews, considering that merchants can be extorted to pay for advertising. “If you had any concern about Yelp’s accuracy before, you’re going to be up a creek now.”
Yelp’s Senior Counsel of Litigation promulgated that these extortion claims are unfounded and without merit:
For years, fringe commentators have accused Yelp of altering business ratings for money. Yelp has never done this and individuals making such claims are either misinformed, or more typically, have an axe to grind.
Personally, I’ve been in contact with several Yelp employees selling ads, and I’ve had no reason to believe that they were trying to suggest or influence clients by saying that reviews could be changed or removed.