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September 02, 2014

Ninth Circuit Confirms That Yelp Does Not Extort

For years, fringe commentators have accused Yelp of altering business ratings for money.  Yelp has never done this and individuals making such claims are either misinformed, or more typically, have an axe to grind––whether businesses upset that Yelp will not remove reviews they don’t like, or unscrupulous internet marketing “experts” trying to make a buck off of honest business owners with dubious reputation management schemes.

In 2010, a few businesses took these conspiracy theories to court and filed several class actions against Yelp -- all of which were dismissed in Federal court. Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of these cases with their ruling in Levitt v. Yelp. Examining the businesses’ best facts after several attempts, the court found no extortion or any other wrongdoing by Yelp. The Court also dismissed as implausible some plaintiffs’ claims that Yelp authored negative reviews about them as part of a plot to obtain ad dollars. Instead, the Court noted that the facts only showed that the reviews were likely from actual customers, noting that “Yelp is a forum for consumers to review businesses, and huge numbers of consumers do just that.”

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. We at Yelp are moving on, and focusing on our core mission––connecting people with great local businesses.