Yelp Business Reviews: Ratings Can Now Be Changed For Money

Yelp business reviews have been known to be one of many ways to make or break a business. Some of those businesses seem to be getting some help with it though, and it’s not an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

The courts ruled last Wednesday that if someone pays the site enough, Yelp can legally change the way the restaurant or any business looks. Many business owners are calling this legalized “extortion.”

It isn’t just restaurants feeling the burn either. The owner of an auto repair shop, John Mercurio, was one of the plaintiffs in the case against Yelp, who claims that the company is using money as a way to take positive ratings away from small businesses. Mercurio stated that after a Yelp representative gave him a sales pitch to spend $500 a month on advertising and he declined, they removed a substantial number of his five-star ratings from the site.

If Mercurio’s accusations are true, it seems the courts don’t really care. Altering a rating over money appears to be legal now, and could affect the public’s trust in Yelp business reviews.

The business rating site claims in a blog posted on Tuesday that they haven’t changed a rating for money and they never will.

“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.”

John Mercurio is furious with the ruling, of course.

“I can’t believe they got away with it. It’s mafia of the Internet. You’re basically a hostage: pay up or die.

“There’s just so many business owners frustrated by this, I can’t bow down. If the three judges had families with businesses, they would have seen this totally different: 100 [percent] extortion.”

This news about Yelp businesses reviews sounds eerily similar to a report yesterday the The Inquisitr that the U.S. government is no longer a democracy, and is in fact an oligarchy, according to Princeton researchers. The people with the money are allegedly controlling those who don’t have enough.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t say that Yelp has done this in the past, as there is no known hard evidence. They simply stated that if Yelp wanted to change ratings over money, it would be perfectly legal.

Public Citizen lawyer Paul Alan Levy has stated that users are unlikely to change the court’s decision.

“There’s strong protections for websites that accept user reviews. If a company like Yelp knows it’s going to be dragged around by any business owner, then it would create an enormous disincentive for them to allow negative reviews, and then what good does a review site do at that point?

“If you don’t know the person, how do you know you can trust their judgment? But if I’m in a strange city, it does provide some utility.”

What do you think of the court’s ruling on the Yelp business reviews?

[image via Shutterstock]