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Yelp Sues Over Fake Reviews
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Julian McMillan runs a small law firm in San Diego, California. He focuses on Bankruptcy law and has an entry on the reviews site Yelp. This Tuesday McMillan was served with a lawsuit that alleged “breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, unfair competition and false advertising,” according to Ars Technica. McMillan is being sued over fake Yelp reviews posted allegedly between 2010 and 2012. The suit was filed only a few weeks ago.

Julian himself commented that the claim has no merit and that he never asked anyone to do that. This is the second time Yelp has sued a small business over fake reviews. McMillan had previously filed a suit against Yelp in small claims court, where a San Diego Superior court judge “likened Yelp’s practices to the Mafia.” I’m assuming no broken legs or concrete shoes were implied. Instead Yelp has been “publicly accused of extortion.” Its practices are to ask for money from businesses in exchange for preferred placement on the site. Yelp’s businesses have made accusations of “abruptly vanishing positive reviews and suddenly appearing negative reviews.”

  
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At the end of August, the appellate judge had dismissed the case and asked that the parties seek binding arbitration. A Yelp spokeswoman, Kristen Whisenand commented, “We continue to take an aggressive stance against business owners who are attempting to mislead consumers through fake reviews.” Yelp has previously sued BuyYelpReview.com, in an attempt to keep the reviews on the site honest. Small businesses can flourish by having their online presence at a fairly respected and highly used business-socially reviewed peer insight site like Yelp. It would almost be a mistake to not have your business listed online, as people trust the reviews generally and search for products and services via services like Yelp. Businesses today cannot afford to not have a web presence, and whether on Facebook, twitter, or Yelp, an online presence is going to drive customers to you and will end up being a revenue driver. So advertising via these online means can no longer be ignored in today’s business world version 2.0.

Yelp is filled with all kinds of reviews, and I would hope to think that most are not falsified, however Yelp’s spokeswoman Whisenand commented, “This is the second complaint we have filed against a business related to deceptive reviews.” Now there are thousands and tens of thousands of businesses likely in each city that Yelp has reviews in. My best guess is that Yelp needs to create more oversight for these types of reviews, and carry on with their quality control to improve it.

Julian McMillan said that Yelp was harassing him and that he “agreed to pay them just so they wouldn’t start posting negative reviews on my Yelp page.” He accuses Yelp of extortion tactics. He personally got into a dispute and later asked to simply be removed from Yelp altogether. He wanted to opt out completely. Since Yelp’s policy is to not remove business listings, citing the Communications Decency Act, they use McMillan’s and others’ trademark names on their website. At this time, the court will have to decide based on the presented evidence.

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