Last week, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco made a ruling that said the review website Yelp.com could manipulate ratings for monetary gain. From almost the very beginning of the website, Yelp has faced accusations that it would often manipulate its ratings of businesses based on what that company would purchase as far as advertisements. Now with the official ruling, they’ve stated there’s nothing illegal about that.
Said Judge Marsha Berzon:
“As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the (alleged) threat of economic harm … is, at most, hard bargaining.” The judges went on to say it was not considered extortion as well.
The 3-0 ruling upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of a potential class-action damage suit by many small-business owners who stated Yelp representatives contacted them looking to make deals on their reviews.
The attorney of the small-business owners, Lawrence Murray, said “I’ve got hundreds of people who have called me with this problem: When they stopped advertising with Yelp, their good reviews got stripped out…What does it take, to have a gun to their head?… This is extortion in any other setting.”
Yelp still denies its giving favorable reviews, or deleting unfavorable ones, to customers who pay for it, but even if that were true, it’s not an illegal practice.