Yelp 'Takes A Stand To Protect Business Owners'

Chris CrumBusiness

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Yelp filed a lawsuit against a company called Revleap, which it says is a scam, and puts small businesses at risk because of the Yelp Consumer Alert program as well as federal and state regulation. Revleap has fired back, saying it's doing nothing wrong, and is looking for businesses wronged by Yelp to help crowfund its legal defense.

Is Yelp right about this company or is Yelp the one damaging reputations as Revleap maintains? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Yelp says Revleap has operated under various names like Yelpdirector and Revpley, and "has spammed businesses with unsolicited messages claiming that they can get good reviews to stick and remove bad reviews."

The actual suit alleges trademark infringement, trademark dilution, unfair competition, cybersquatting, breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, and false advertising. You can take a look at the complaint here.

"One thing Revleap actually does, it seems, is bombard their clients’ customers with surveys," says Yelp VP of Communications Vince Sollitto. "Customers that respond favorably, and agree to post a review, are entered in a drawing for gift cards in an effort to deceptively boost their clients’ reputations."

"We sometimes hear reports about 'reputation management' or 'small business marketing' agencies that promise (for a fee, of course) to help businesses remove negative reviews and gain more positive reviews on Yelp," Sollitto writes in a blog post. "Some of these agencies imply that they have a special relationship with Yelp or even lead business owners to believe that they are acting on behalf of Yelp."

He goes on to call such offers "scams," and notes that some business owners fall for them and end up "paying dearly, both with their bank accounts and their online reputations."

Yelp is painting the lawsuit as "taking a stand to protect business owners".

Revleap said this in a blog post last month:

Yelp is a swiftly growing reviews site with very real challenges," Revleap said in a blog post last month. "Many business owners who are reviewed on Yelp have experienced real-world changes in their businesses due to the reviews posted by customers. The reviews site has definitely benefited businesses with plentiful 4 and 5 star reviews. But if one studies the conversation in social networks, blogs and the news feeds, Yelp is facing a real PR nightmare due to a poorly run internal sales department that pushes business owners to pay for expensive marketing add-ons.

Terry Thomas recently published an article in the Seattle Times about his experience with Yelp. Apparently, a Yelp sales rep called Thomas after his business had risen due to excellent reviews. The sales rep proposed that Thomas pay Yelp $8400 per year for a mid-level marketing add-on program. When Thomas declined, he saw an almost instant drop in the positive reviews of his business due to a Yelp "filtering" program. Interestingly, Thomas noted that positive reviews were filtered out, while negative reviews remained. His rating went down as a result and his business was directly affected. (SOURCE: Seattle Times)

​There are numerous other examples of similar issues going on for business owners across the world (Yelp is an international reviews site). If you Google "yelp problems" or simply look at Yelp in the news for the last 7 days, you will see an overwhelming amount of bad press and negative feedback about the site.

​Revleap has come to the rescue of business owners by providing a simple program where existing customers of a business can be invited to contribute reviews to Yelp. The program utilizes a proprietary software package that business owners license from Revleap. With this package, a business owner can upload a list of customers and these same customers will be invited to contribute reviews to Yelp. The Revleap software filters out negative reviews submitted by the customers, while guiding positive reviewers to Yelp directly. Most medium-sized businesses using Revleap have noticed an average of 10-20 new positive reviews on Yelp per day as a result.

Yelp said earlier this month that it will be beefing up its sales staff, especially here in the U.S. In January, the company issued its latest round of Consumer Alerts, slapping warnings on the pages of 85 businesses.

We reached out to Revleap for comment. Here's what they said:

Since RevLeap’s inception as a platform for businesses to connect with their customers to gather feedback in a new way, we champion the freedom of speech and open internet. “The Open Internet” as described by the FCC calls for 1. Transparency, 2. No Blocking, and 3. No Unreasonable Discrimination.

RevLeap services are legal in all aspects of the law, and we specialize in only legitimate reviews from real customers. Yelp has filed completely false and unsubstantiated claims against our company. We aim to decrease defamation and increase awareness of free speech for businesses. We level the playing field for everyone who uses the internet or reviews on any site.

We believe the internet, business owners, and their customers benefit greatly from having an open internet. Any disruption of these principles like the Yelp “Filter” or described on Yelp’s website as “Recommendation Software” preys on businesses using the reviews as leverage as described in thousands of FTC complaints against Yelp from 2008-2014. Yelp’s Yelp Profile has over 10,000 1-Star Reviews from business owners, friends and family of business owners who have been hurt by Yelp and we hope through our services we can restore faith in the internet and reach a point of transparency with Yelp.

Yelp has been talking about the “open Internet” itself. On Wednesday, the company released a blog post calling for people to express their support for Net Neutrality before the FCC votes on February 26, and saying that Yelp values users and works with other companies and organizations to “support adoption of the strongest Net Neutrality principles to protect the American Public.”

Here’s an excerpt from that:

Since Yelp’s inception as a platform to connect people with great local businesses around them, we have supported and relied on the principles of an open and free Internet in order to do business. These principles, which have become enshrined in the term “Net Neutrality,” provide that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all legal data and content equally, and not discriminate, throttle, or charge different rates depending on the nature of the site, platform or data being transmitted.

Revleap has started a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise money for its legal defense in the Yelp suit. It's hoping businesses that have been hurt by Yelp will step up and help.

Which of these companies do you think is in the right here? Either? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via Yelp

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.