Well, this is rich. Yelp now has a lawsuit against a company that's been getting paid by businesses to game the Yelp system and flood their pages with positive reviews. Yelp of course forbids people being compensated for writing reviews, which they have to to protect the integrity of their model, however it's been argued a number of times over the years that Yelp and businesses themselves "compensate" Yelp Elite members by throwing them parties and plying them with free food and booze. Not to mention the whole pay-to-play extortion issue, which Yelp has successfully fought in court, in which their sales team has been alleged to use extremely aggressive tactics, including the reordering or removing of reviews to highlight bad ones, in order to get businesses to pay for advertising on the site.
The company being sued is called Revleap, and Yelp's complaint alleges that they give out gift cards to people in exchange to writing positive Yelp reviews of their clients' businesses, thereby deceptively boosting their ratings. As IT World reports, the suit is seeking an injunction to end Revleap's parasitic practice of earning money off of Yelp's name, as well as unspecified damages.
Revleap's co-owners, meanwhile, are defiant about the fairness of what they do, saying that Yelp is "destroying small businesses."
You may recall that among Yelp's recent litigious issues, an arguably frivolous lawsuit was brought against the company by a former Yelp Elite member who was trying to argue that she deserved actual monetary compensation from the company since, as an Elite member who wrote reviews in exchange for perks, she was no different than an employee, called a Yelp Scout, who is paid to write reviews for businesses in new markets.
And, in 2014, the 9th Circuit Court ruled that Yelp's practice of hard-selling ads, even if they did it by manipulating customers' review pages, did not rise to the level of extortion to cause economic harm, but was "at most, hard bargaining" in legal terms. The argument being that the reviews exist, for free, and as the owner of the site itself Yelp can remove positive reviews as they please, or leave them in exchange for advertising revenue.
Many, many small businesses still do not see it this way, and thus they're willing to pay a company like Revleap to game the system in their favor.
Related: Restaurant Begs Loyal Customers To Post Bad Reviews In F-You To Yelp
Yelp Is Allowed To Manipulate Ratings And Remove Good Reviews, Says Court
Letter To The Editor: A Small Business Owner Responds To Yelp's Legal Triumph