A year ago, the East Bay Express weekly newspaper in Oakland, California, went public with stinging accusations that user review site Yelp engaged in shady pressure tactics to remove or bury negative reviews for businesses that advertised or coughed up sponsorships. Now, a lawsuit is alleging something eerily similar.
TechCrunch is reporting that law firms in San Diego and Miami have tag-teamed for a class-action lawsuit against San Francisco-based Yelp, alleging unfair business practices. The plaintiff? A Southern California veterinary hospital that says it asked Yelp to delete a negative review, was refused, and then allegedly received multiple queries by Yelp sales reps to cough up some $300 a month to make the bad review disappear (either bury it or delete it entirely).
Sound like an extortion scheme worthy of Tony Soprano? That's pretty much what the plaintiff is charging. In a statement, Yelp told TechCrunch the allegations were "demonstrably false" and promised to fight aggressively. The suit was filed Tuesday, and is pending with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.