You may think that the social media review site Yelp adds or subtracts the number or type of ratings you get, adjusting your overall score right around the time it calls and asks you to buy ads. You may be outraged by this. You may even go to court over it. But your chances of success in court got slimmer this month.
On Sept. 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected an appeal by several companies seeking to reopen a proposed class-action lawsuit against Yelp that had been dismissed by a lower court. The plaintiffs had alleged that sales tactics by Yelp employees and what they regarded as timely manipulating of reviews amounted to extortion.
“The business owners may deem the posting or order of user reviews as a threat of economic harm, but it is not unlawful for Yelp to post and sequence the reviews,” the court's opinion stated. “As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the threat of economic harm that Yelp leveraged is, at most, hard bargaining.”
Following the ruling, Yelp's litigation director wrote that individuals who claim Yelp alters business ratings for money "are either misinformed, or more typically, have an axe to grind. ... We are obviously happy that the Court reached the right result, and saw through these thin attempts by a few businesses and their lawyers to disparage Yelp and draw attention away from their own occasional negative review."