Yelp Allowed to Manipulate Ratings, Says Court

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( — September 12, 2014) Flower Mound, TEXAS — In a historic ruling on September 4th, the courts have ruled that Yelp may in fact do whatever it likes when it comes to online ratings and reviews. It is no secret that many have accused Yelp of manipulating its review ratings depending upon participation in their ads. Essentially, it is thought that if you do not submit to the pressure from very aggresive sales techniques, your “good reviews” will be hidden. Yelp denies these claims.


The ruling by a federal appeals court basically said that Yelp was doing nothing illegal. “As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the (alleged) threat of economic harm … is, at most, hard bargaining,” and not extortion or unfair business practices, Judge Marsha Berzon said in Tuesday’s 3-0 ruling.


Yelp won the appeal and received a dismissal of a class-action suit that was filed by small business owners who believed that they were being strong-armed into buying Yelp advertising, in some cases for tens of thousands of dollars. They claimed that they were told that if they purchased ads or marketing from Yelp, they would continue to display positive reviews while suppressing negative ones. Yelp denies these claims, stating that their algorithm and programming simply is not designed that way.


Regardless of the truth in that, Yelp may have a more serious problem on their hands. If the court says they can in fact do whatever they like in terms of hiding or showing reviews for paying and non-paying customers, it begs the question by consumers, “How legitimate, complete or accurate are the results shown on Yelp?” Reputation marketing has become a huge business for many companies and the impact is huge for the small business owner, who relies on positive reviews to help consumers select their services.


The appeals court did not make it clear that the plaintiffs failed to show that Yelp was in fact altering data to hide or show reviews based on consumer buying, instead, the courts simply said there was a failure to show that Yelp had broke any laws or violated their rights.

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