Let me open this post by highlighting the recent news coverage for Yelp. The most recent lawsuit against Yelp alleges fraudulent reviews and extortion practices by Yelp. This is on top of a class action lawsuit brought against Yelp in 2013 by a group claiming, among other things, that Yelp was pushing them to produce more reviews in order to maintain Elite status. Before going on, let me level set for those not familiar with Yelp. Founded in 2004 Yelp is an online community of business reviewers. The idea behind it is that any customer of a business can find a forum for expressing their views on a business, and have those reviews go public in real-time. The concept is great, and in an idealistic setting, seems like a very democratic and just system. However, in reality it is anything but.
Money could be Affecting Yelp’s Reviews
Yelp is a business, and like any business, needs to make money. The main driver behind the business, now, is in business accounts. Through these accounts, Yelp offers enhanced business profiles, more photos, more videos, and better search rankings – all at a fairly substantial price for a small business. Regardless of the cost, this seems like a fairly obvious business offering. However, after that the value proposition dips into a very gray, if not black area, when it comes to ethical business practice. There are many that allege that Yelp is requiring these business accounts in order to suppress negative reviews (or even get positive reviews “recommended”). Others allege that the minute a business stops paying Yelp, that some of the reviews they earned through their payments to Yelp disappear. Others allege that people having nothing to do with a company have the ability to post “recommended” reviews on a company, having never actually done business with the company. Thus, competitors, or even paid agents could post poor reviews on the competition. All of these are very valid reasons to treat Yelp reviews with a grain of salt.