On Tuesday, a Ninth circuit appeals court ruled that Yelp’s ad sales strategies do not extort small businesses and merely amount to “hard bargaining” by the company.
Yelp lets anyone review a business, and businesses can’t opt out of being reviewed. So when Yelp’s ad sales team began calling around asking companies to buy advertising in exchange for displaying a chosen review more prominently, some storefronts cried foul.
Yelp wins another one.
I admit to very mixed feelings on this. One the one had I do see it as a free speech issue. Consumers should have the right to express their feelings regarding an establishment they have done business with. Personally I do use user reviews to help me make buying decisions. If there are businesses or dentists who are doing bad things and harming the public we have a right to know and the marketplace should then punish them…BUT.
There are just way too many stories about Yelp suppressing good reviews and changing reviews based on how much is paid not to be alarmed. A few weeks ago half a dozen dentists in my San Francisco audience had horror stories about how Yelp mistreated them. I hear stories of small businesses and restaurants being threatened by customers demanding a free meal or else they will write a bad online review.
I have personally never had a bad encounter with Yelp and Yelp vehemently denies they are doing anything wrong or filtering reviews based on pay offs.
The judge says what they do is not extortion it is just “hard bargaining”.