Finally, an Actual Yelp Class Action Lawsuit for Extortion

Yelp was yesterday slammed with a prospective class action lawsuit over unfair business practices. To that I say, it’s about time! There have been rumblings and whining and stories for years about Yelp salespeople pressuring local businesses to pay to remove negative user reviews. Yelp has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, but the rumor mill persists. Let’s take it to a court and see if anyone can make the dirt stick.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles by Long Beach, Calif.’s Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital Inc and first written about by TechCrunch, alleges that Yelp demanded $300 per month in order to hide a false and defamatory review of the pet hospital. (Cats and Dogs, by the way, currently has a respectable four stars on Yelp with 27 reviews.)

Though there has been chatter online in the past about filing Yelp class action suits, an online court search shows only a couple of actual lawsuits against the company, one over trademark infringement that was settled and one over patent infringement that involves a whole host of tech companies. The would-be class action suit hasn’t showed up in the system yet.

Yelp gave us a statement on the lawsuit, attributed to Vince Sollitto, VP Communications:

“Yelp provides a valuable service to millions of consumers and businesses based on our trusted content. The allegations are demonstrably false, since many businesses that advertise on Yelp have both negative and positive reviews. These businesses realize that both kinds of feedback provide authenticity and value. Running a good business is hard; filing a lawsuit is easy. While we haven’t seen the suit in question, we will dispute it aggressively.”

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

How Social Networks Could Help Yelp, Not Kill It

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