Trials & Litigation

Yelp Makes Some Changes After Class Actions Allege Advertising Extortion

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Yelp will allow users to see which reviews are removed from its consumer-rating website after three class action lawsuits claimed businesses were extorted into buying advertising.

The suits, all filed in California, had claimed businesses were promised that positive reviews would be highlighted and negative ones removed if they advertised, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Yelp “has done its utmost to deny all accusations vehemently,” according to TechCrunch.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said in a post on the Yelp blog that some aspects of the website’s operation have led to myths about advertiser influence, and that’s why the changes are being made.

The revisions allow users to click on a small gray link at the bottom of the page to see reviews that had been removed by a filter, according the Chronicle. The filter was designed to eliminate glowing reviews thought to be posted by business owners or negative review thought to be posted by competitors.

Yelp is also eliminating a feature that allowed advertisers to post a positive review at the top of the page that gets labeled as an ad.

Three law firms involved in suits against Yelp told the Digits blog of the Wall Street Journal that they will persist in their lawsuits despite the changes. San Diego lawyer Greg Weston told the Chronicle that the changes are a partial victory, but he wants to pursue his case to get refunds for businesses pressured into advertising and to force changes in training for Yelp salespeople.

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