There was a time when a customer wrote a negative review of a business on Yelp, that business might reach out via email and try to gently persuade said customer to reconsider their choice of words. Not anymore. Some businesses have seemingly abandoned the polite approach in favor of something much more direct — threatening to sue Yelpers who talk trash on the platform. And it appears that Yelp will be having none of this. In a blog post Monday, Senior Vice President Vince Sollitto explained that the company has begun flagging businesses that go after their customers in court.
"Consumers have the right to share their opinions about their experiences with businesses, but there will always be a small handful of businesses who mistakenly think it’s a good idea to threaten consumers who exercise their free speech rights," wrote Sollitto. "As a result, we started a new type of Consumer Alert to warn people about businesses that issue questionable legal threats."
Spun as a "consumer alert," much in the way the company tags businesses with poor health scores, the warnings show up front and center on a company's page.
“This business may be trying to abuse the legal system in an effort to stifle free speech, including issuing questionable legal threats against reviewers,” the alert reads. “As a reminder, reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp.”
This move by the company comes in response to several business lawsuits, detailed in Sollitto's blog post, directed at reviewers. Interestingly, it comes barely a month after the company was determined by a California court to be responsible for removing reviews deemed to defamatory.
But don't worry all you negative Yelpers out there — not only does Yelp have your back, California courts do as well. As noted by Consumerist, non-disparagement clauses, even when the complaints are truthful, were outlawed in the state back in 2014.
So enjoy that burrito or whatever it is you're reviewing, and trash talk away.