Court rules there’s no extortion at Yelp…that can be proven

Court rules there’s no extortion at Yelp…that can be proven



You hear this complaint a lot in reputation management circles…

Mercurio, the owner of an auto-body shop called Wheel Techniques, said that Yelp posted “false reviews” to get him to advertise, and Chan, a dentist, claimed that “Yelp removed nine 5-star reviews” from her page after she refused to advertise, the ruling states. After Chan gave in and signed an advertising contract with Yelp, her overall rating increased to four stars and several five-stars reviews were re-posted, she said.

After losing their original class action law suit–claiming Yelp’s extortion–the case was this week similarly dismissed by an appeal court. Of course, Yelp has jumped all of it and is doing a great job of claiming exoneration in its victory:

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.

The only slight snag? The ruling, while in Yelp’s favor, implies that extortion might have existed, it’s just that Yelp has every right to change reviews or ask for money:

 “In sum, to state a claim of economic extortion under both federal and California law, a litigant must demonstrate either that he had a pre-existing right to be free from the threatened harm, or that the defendant had no right to seek payment for the service offered,” wrote Judge Marsha Berzon for the three-judge appellate panel

“Given these stringent requirements, the business owners in this case failed sufficiently to allege that Yelp wrongfully threatened economic loss by manipulating user reviews,” Berzon added. (Emphasis in original.)

It’s all in the semantics. Yelp is cleared of any wrongful business practice, but the door is left open that the accusations are still actually true.

ByAndy Beal

Andy Beal is The Original Online Reputation Expert™. A bestselling author of two critically-acclaimed reputation management books, a keynote speaker at dozens of events, and brand consultant experience with thousands of individuals and companies.