Small Business News

People Are Complaining To The FTC About Yelp A Lot

The FTC disclosed this week that there have been 2,046 complaints filed against Yelp dating from 2008 to March 4th, 2014. While that may seem like a lot, it’s not incredibly shocking given that we see businesses complaining informally about the site pretty much every week.

Businesses often vent their frustration in article comments and elsewhere on the Internet, as well as at Yelp’s own events. They often blame the site for major losses in business, and sometimes suggest that the site is holding their positive reviews hostage when they refuse to advertise.

The FTC’s disclosure was in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Wall Street Journal. They sent reporter Angus Loten the complaints (most of them at least). He writes:

Most of the complaints are from small businesses that claim to have received unfair or fraudulent reviews, often after turning down a pitch to advertise on the site, according to a separate spreadsheet of complaints to the FTC about Yelp, reviewed exclusively by the Journal. For instance, a business owner in Montclair, N.J., whose name was redacted said: “I was contacted by a Yelp salesperson to advertise, which I declined, and since have only had negative posts on their site.”

Obviously Yelp has always denied that there is any relationship between advertising and reviews.

Earlier this year, The Court of Appeals of Virginia ordered Yelp to reveal the names of seven reviewers who left anonymous, negative reviews on a business – Hadeed Carpet – which says the names are critical in pursuing a defamation case against the reviewers over what it claims were false reviews from non-customers. Yelp has reportedly been held in contempt for not revealing the names.

As Loten reports, the case is headed to the Virginia Supreme Court this month. He writes that the business lost millions in revenue after the negative reviews, and had to get rid of 80 workers and sell six trucks.

Another interesting stat to come out of the report is that Yelp receives roughly six subpoenas a month, sometimes looking to get names of anonymous users.

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