9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules on Yelp Lawsuit

Avoid the rose-tinted Yelp Effect

About 9 days ago, it was reported that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ‘ruled’ that Yelp does not extort businesses. In fact, the case did not get fully heard, because the Court established that Yelp’s alleged practice of reducing ratings unless companies buy ad space is apparently a perfectly legal and allowable action for the company to take—if they do that—thanks to business law in the United States. It may not be ethical, but the Court was concerned only with the legalities.

The Court threw out the case after four years of work and unhelpfully did not even establish whether Yelp was acting in this way or not.

According to the Court, Yelp is a private company, acting within the legal parameters of what the Court referred to as ‘hard bargaining’. Even if Yelp is being mean to its clients, that doesn’t mean from a legal point of view that it should be punished, even though those ‘clients’ did not step forward to be included in Yelp’s service.

This is capitalism, and it is designed to make the fat cats fatter and the thin ones dead.

The problem with being ‘on Yelp’

The issues you have as a small business if you don’t want to be included on Yelp’s directory listings are these:

  • No choice on inclusion in the directory

You don’t get a choice – your customers add you to the directory, and once you’re on, Yelp makes it pretty hard for you to be removed altogether.

  • Subject to possible Yelp manipulation

Once you’re on, Yelp can potentially manipulate your reviews so that all your good ones vanish and only the negative reviews are visible … if it wants. This has not been proven, and Yelp refutes it publicly.

  • No advantage to being on Yelp

You can’t include Yelp reviews as part of your business model because they ban solicited reviews and they remove any that appear to break their ‘guidelines’. This means that beyond getting good reviews by regular ‘Yelpers’, even being on the website has no advantage for your business.

What to do if you don’t want to be listed on Yelp

There isn’t much you can do about being on Yelp. Their help and support pages explain that:

“Consumers have the right to talk about what they like (and don’t like) about a meal they ate, a plumber they hired, or a car wash they visited. We don’t remove business listings, so your best bet is to engage with your fans and critics alike, and hear what they have to say.”

This means that unless you close shop, you don’t get a chance to escape once one of your customers has enmeshed you in the Yelp net.

Hope is around the corner

The only real alternative, given the failure of the legal system to adequately capture and deal with the unethical behaviour of the Yelp team, is to find a new review site to work from.

As you probably know by now, iTrueReview provides you with the tools to ignore the Yelp effect altogether. Here’s what we mean:


  • Dilute negative effects of big review sites and gain more reviews

Genuine reviews uploaded in real time across the Internet at multiple local locations may dilute the effects of Yelp and other big review sites. It certainly gives your business a greater number of reviews and customer thoughts, providing potential guests with even more information about how great your business is. If you deal directly and immediately with any negatives, your potentials can also see how you handled them.


  • Business improvement opportunities

Automated promotional tools to assist you with business improvement


  • Improved customer relationships

Personalised experiences for your customers with emphasis on improving customer relationships and maintaining your reputation


  • Track your service standards

Server tracking, to ensure that your standards of customer service remain nice and strong.


  • Convenient mobile app

Mobile app to make it easier for your customers to access your company’s information and to upload their reviews


The most important thing we ensure we achieve for our clients is this: honest transparency.


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