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March 04, 2010

Different Day, Different Lawyer, Same Meritless Claim: A Classic Race to the Courthouse

As many folks know, a lawsuit was filed against Yelp last week alleging we move reviews around to reward advertisers and punish non-advertisers. Of course, we don't. As I've explained on this blog here, the allegations are false and easily refuted. They are borne from a lack of understanding of how Yelp works to provide consumers with useful information about local businesses and protect users from fake, or shill, reviews.

These misconceptions are also fueled by lawyers, who may have heard about Yelp's recent financing round and may be seeking a share. So it's no surprise that today another lawyer has filed a virtually identical lawsuit making the same inaccurate claims. (Don't worry; they're still not true.)

These copy cat suits get filed in what is known as a "race to the courthouse," where lawyers jockey to be named the lead lawyer of the case and take the biggest share of legal fees; being among the first to file a suit increases the chance of being put in charge of the case.

So, as I said: it's not a surprise to see another such frivolous suit. In fact, it's kind of expected.

This doesn't change a thing however: this suit, like the other, is without merit, we will fight it aggressively and we believe we will win.

Why? Well, beside many of the reasons I stated here, the business in this suit, D'ames Day Spa of San Diego County, admits it solicited the reviews in question.



As we have explained in the past, solicited reviews, more so than naturally occurring ones, are more likely to be detected by Yelp's review filter, which we employ to protect consumers from shill reviews and businesses from malicious reviews from competitors. If a business could garner a top rating on Yelp simply by soliciting 5-star reviews from friends, family, and favored customers, how useful would such a site be?

The resulting trust in Yelp reviews is why more than 30 million consumers used Yelp in the past 30 days to find a great local business. That trust is what makes Yelp useful to consumers and businesses alike and we will always fight to protect it.

I do want to ensure you that we don't take any of these allegations or events lightly. Especially the fact that misunderstandings about Yelp have arisen in the first place. We understand some businesses can find us confusing or a source of anxiety. We are working hard to make our business even clearer. This will include continuing to incorporate feedback from you, our community, directly on ways we can improve, in addition to further developing the customer service and FAQ tools we already have in place. In the meantime, it remains my priority to ensure you are as informed as possible. You can expect additional blog posts, as well as other forms of communication from me.