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Businesses Social Networks The Courts The Internet

Company Promises Positive Yelp Reviews For a Price; Yelp Sues 77

jfruh writes Many restaurants and other small businesses live and die by Yelp reviews. Revleap operates a paid service that it says can "create a large constant flow of positive reviews that stay on top of your [Yelp] profile, and remove fake reviews." But Yelp is suing Revleap for what it says are practices that are fraudulent and in violation of Yelp's terms of service; among other things, Revleap promises users gift cards in exchange for good reviews.
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Company Promises Positive Yelp Reviews For a Price; Yelp Sues

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  • by Emperor Tiberius ( 673354 ) on Monday February 16, 2015 @04:36PM (#49068941) Homepage
    You can make a legitimately negative review of a place and watch your review get buried, because the sort isn't chronological. I really don't care if the restaurant had 5 stars three years ago. I *do* care if they all the sudden have a slew of negative ratings for people getting sick, etc.
    • by penix1 ( 722987 ) on Monday February 16, 2015 @04:40PM (#49068969) Homepage

      You actually pay attention to "customer" rating???? You poor thing! And if I said there were unicorns in your living room you would go looking too right...

      News flash!

      Things posted to the internet aren't always true...

      • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Monday February 16, 2015 @05:07PM (#49069143)

        Things posted to the internet aren't always true...

        Since you posted this on internet, maybe it's not true, which would mean that it's true, which would mean that it's not! *tilt*

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's why you look at as many reviews as possible and practice discernment and common sense. It's corroborative testimony, which is better than taking a shot in the dark. So, you can go ride that unicorn's face. And I hope it's prone to seizures.

      • by ichthus ( 72442 )

        You actually pay attention to "customer" rating????

        As opposed to.... what? MPAA rating?

        • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

          You actually pay attention to "customer" rating????

          As opposed to.... what? MPAA rating?

          As opposed to restaurant reviews from professional reviewers.

          • The ones who have sometimes been found to not be nearly as impartial as they'd like you to believe?

            • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

              The ones who have sometimes been found to not be nearly as impartial as they'd like you to believe?

              You're not going to get perfection no matter which choice you pick. A combination of sources is probably best, but I'll generally take the possibly partial reviewer with a professional reputation to maintain over the yelp entry, which I know for sure is not impartial.

          • by ichthus ( 72442 )
            Why should I give a rat's ass what some pretentious, beany-wearing hipster communications major thinks about a restaurant? What kind of statistical accuracy can a data set of one (1) provide? No. I want many opinions from many average Joes -- being an average Joe myself.
    • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Monday February 16, 2015 @04:50PM (#49069021)

      Yeah there was a company here in Seattle that I heard about that was a wedding venue. Apparently their building was scheduled for demolition but the company was at best 'hopeful' that they would have a new space by then but in truth mostly just fraudulent. They accepted $1,000 deposits on rentals well past the scheduled demolition date. Then with a few months to go they started emailing people telling them that there had been a fire and that the space wouldn't be available for their wedding in a couple weeks. A newspaper looked into it and there had been no reported fires so even that was total BS. Understandably everyone who was robbed by these business owners gave very bad yelp reviews but since the company had been around for years it was only a few dozen people who were ripped off vs the hundreds who did legitimately like the space. As a result last I checked its yelp review was like 3.5 stars with a mix of 5 and 1 star reviews.

      There really should be a weighting system to trend up and down based on the last couple months.

    • This is good advice in general. Whenever I buy something from Newegg and I'm comparing a few similar products, I read the bad reviews, not the good.

      • I like to do a few things

        first off, i like to wait until theres at least 100 reviews if its electronics with no more than 5-10% 1 star reviews

        I throw out the 5s and the 1s, as they are almost always either fluff or people who dont know what their product was meant to do, or faulty equipment. i skim the 1s, but thats it just to see if a date range fits a bunch of faulty equipment, signaling a bad manufacturing batch.

        I focus on the 2-4 star range, as these posts are usually thought out posts by people
    • by neminem ( 561346 )

      While annoying that the default isn't sorting chronologically (I agree completely that this is the only sort that is actually useful), and that you have to re-sort every time you visit the page for a new place, it *is* only a single extra click, next to the default "yelp sort", the "date" link.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      I think the last time I heard of people getting sick at a restaurant was 20+ years ago. Typically I'm not worried about getting sick, I just want to get decent food for a decent price.
    • by floodo1 ( 246910 )
      You can change the sorting to chronological if you like though.
  • by StandardCell ( 589682 ) on Monday February 16, 2015 @04:37PM (#49068945)
    The exact same arguments Yelp makes in effectively extorting businesses by deleting positive reviews unless they pay up are the same ones that RevLeap is trying to counterbalance and the same ones that SEO companies use to boost their Google rankings. I see neither a moral nor a legal argument that could favor Yelp in this case given their prior behavior, and I hope they pay RevLeap's costs in the end when they lose.
    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      You mean this?

      http://www.eastbayexpress.com/... [eastbayexpress.com]

      February 18, 2009
      Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0
      Local business owners say Yelp offers to hide negative customer reviews of their businesses on its web site ... for a price.
      By Kathleen Richards

      "Hi, this is Mike from Yelp," the voice would say. "You've had three hundred visitors to your site this month. You've had a really good response. But you have a few bad ones at the top. I could do something about those."

      This wasn't your average sales pitch. At least

      • by Anonymous Coward

        http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/2014/09/17/richmond-restaurant-owner-encourages-bad-yelp-reviews/

        By the way, I think we need better truth in advertising laws.
        When I watch a TV show, I want them to list all the product placements in the credits.
        When I read reviews online, I want to know if the reviewer was compensated in any way.
        When I see fine print on TV commercials, I want it to stay up for a reasonable amount of time... three seconds.
        All punishable by fines for violations in my idea.

        • You'll run afoul of the "but.. but.. freeeee market!!" crowd. They don't understand that sometimes the way "the market" (us, consumers, citizens) deals with shitty companies is by telling "the government" (still us, voters, citizens) to impose regulations, especially suggestions like yours. These are things that a well-functioning free market would need to properly educate the consumers. Not that we'd make the right choices anyway, but at least we wouldn't have anybody to blame but ourselves. You might also
  • You got to see it from Yelp point of view. It spends tons of money on the servers, SEO tricks etc etc and some random user who did nothing more than give a fake name like Eustace H Plimsoll, West Dulwich get an account and gets to freeload like pigs in the trough at all these restaurants?

    The right thing to do is to post intentionally bad reviews and let Yelp shakedown the restaurant to take those reviews off. Yelp got a good set up going, and these selfish users are spoiling the set up and are helping them

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )
      Yelps business involves getting companies to pay them in order to quash negative reviews and promote positive ones, of course they're going to have a problem with a different company offering the same service.

      However if this service is illegal, that makes Yelp itself illegal as they do the same thing. Same with Trip Advisor, Urbanspoon and any other "review" site. All of them take money to improve ratings/reviews.
  • So they are violating Yelp’s terms of service!? Since when have anybody's terms of service been enforceable in a court of law? It is immoral to lie, but of course it's not illegal, because politicians do it all the time. So why should it be illegal to pay somebody to post fiction on the Internet? Maybe some lying politician will introduce a bill to make it illegal?

    • you can sue anyone for anything. And when their business model is specifically designed to undermine yours.......
      • That is unfortunately true in the US. Even when they don't have a leg to stand on legally and know quite well, those with deep pockets will still pursue those with little or no money in court. Even just the threat of a lawsuit by a well financed plaintiff is often enough to get a favorable settlement out of a defendant long before the matter ever gets to court. In some other jurisdictions such as Europe, lawyers get paid in the same way plumbers do, so much per hour. That greatly reduces the incentive of gr

    • Because it's fraudulent and damages Yelp's business by making the accuracy of reviews much lower. Revleap acts in a knowingly deceitful manner for financial gain at the cost of Yelp's reputation (which is deservedly pretty bad already).

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      So they are violating Yelp’s terms of service!? Since when have anybody's terms of service been enforceable in a court of law? It is immoral to lie, but of course it's not illegal, because politicians do it all the time. So why should it be illegal to pay somebody to post fiction on the Internet? Maybe some lying politician will introduce a bill to make it illegal?

      Actually, I'd be curious how Revleap is violating the terms of service. Revleap might not even have to use Yelp's site directly to pull this off, and thus wouldn't be bound by any terms of service. The people actually posting the reviews might be in violation, but that's not who Yelp is suing.

      • Responant superior.. or however it is spelled.

        Basically, it means leg the master answer. If an employee or someone at your direction, violates or commits a tortious act, you can be just as responsible.

    • So they are violating Yelp’s terms of service!? Since when have anybody's terms of service been enforceable in a court of law? It is immoral to lie, but of course it's not illegal, because politicians do it all the time. So why should it be illegal to pay somebody to post fiction on the Internet? Maybe some lying politician will introduce a bill to make it illegal?

      It is a contract. How enforceable it is is decided by a court. Posting fake reviews lessens the value of Yelp and thus if they win they can show damages.

      • A contract must be agreed by both parties.

        When did Revleap themselves use the Yelp services and agree to the terms of service? They contract that out in exchange for gift cards.

        • A contract must be agreed by both parties.

          When did Revleap themselves use the Yelp services and agree to the terms of service? They contract that out in exchange for gift cards.

          I would argue that they accepted the terms of service when they offered to post positive reviews, even if they contract that out. If you don't buy that, contrasting out the service could be construed as them knowing of the contract and a way to avoid it. In that case, if they are paying others to post it could be tortuous inducement to breach the contract or tortuous interference with business relationships since it would damage Yelp's business.

          • Since when does the clicking the mouse on a computer constitute a contract? For a contract to be valid both parties must be IDENTIFIED unambiguously. This is essentially impossible over the Internet. To make a valid, enforceable contract the participants also must be over 18 years old.

            Anyone can click a mouse attached to a computer. Getting people to think that a click of the mouse on the computer screen is a valid contract is another one of the many fictions that lawyers have foisted upon gullible, uneduca

            • Since when does the clicking the mouse on a computer constitute a contract? For a contract to be valid both parties must be IDENTIFIED unambiguously. This is essentially impossible over the Internet. To make a valid, enforceable contract the participants also must be over 18 years old.

              A contract requires three things (in the US):

              Offer, Acceptance and Consideration; all of which can be met by creating a Yelp account for posting on Yelp. As for identifying both parties, the person signing up knows who they are and who Yelp is; if they chose to use a false ID that is not Yelp's fault and not a reason to void the contract. Using a false name doesn't absolve someone of performance under a contract. If they re below the age of consent for a contract that is a different story, but that is not t

          • Your argument would fail, since it's not possible to confirm Revleap was even offered to read the terms of service, let alone agree to them.

            Especially since they state quite clearly

            By accessing or using the Site, you are agreeing to these Terms and concluding a legally binding contract with Yelp Inc

            And there is no proof Revleap accessed or used their site. That is done via third parties.

            • Your argument would fail, since it's not possible to confirm Revleap was even offered to read the terms of service, let alone agree to them.

              Especially since they state quite clearly

              By accessing or using the Site, you are agreeing to these Terms and concluding a legally binding contract with Yelp Inc

              And there is no proof Revleap accessed or used their site. That is done via third parties.

              Exactly, and since they are acting on Revleap's behalf then Revleap is responsible for their actions, including violation of terms of service. Revleap is paying them to carry out an action and thus responsible for what they do. A reasonable person would find that Revleap should be aware of their existence, given their offering to post positive reviews so the "we didn't do, someone else did it" argument would fail. Which is why I would think a tortuous interference claim would be more likely than a simple br

  • Yelp, contributing member of the Legitimate Businessman's Social Club., today initiated a lawsuit against itself announcing, "Our terms of service clearly state that developers may not compete with services already in the Yelp ecosystem."

    Yelp later dropped the case, without admission of guilt, when it walked into court only to be confronted by attorneys from Yelp.
  • I've made a habit of skipping every rating that is the maximum and every rating that is the minimum of the allowed scope. Somewhere in the 2-to-4-star gamut is the truth of the matter.

    • You're generous. I click randomly on the scale.

    • I've made a habit of skipping every rating that is the maximum and every rating that is the minimum of the allowed scope. Somewhere in the 2-to-4-star gamut is the truth of the matter.

      ... and who would ever think of leaving a fake 4 star review? just when you thought you had the answer to life's problems, and bam.

  • One protection racket is upset that another protection racket is encroaching on their territory. Queue up the violins...

  • Yes only Yelp is allowed to doctor your reviews by burying your negative reviews for a fee, everyone knows that.
  • Bollocks. They say they offer gift cards to users who create positive reviews.

    At no time does that imply Revleap ever agreed to the Terms of Use

    As for fraud, they may be encouraging others to commit fraud and rewarding them for it. I don't know if that's a crime or not. I would have thought they should be going after those who create the reviews. If anyone is committing fraud it's them.

    I don't think yelp would be so popular if users thought they might risk being sued by yelp if they create a review.

    • I don't think yelp would be so popular if users thought they might risk being sued by yelp if they create a review.

      duh? no person with 1/2 a brain is going to fear getting sued by Yelp because they've gone after a *business* that's paid people, and been paid, to post positive reviews.

      Yelp is review, that's all they are. they of course will never do something to scare away legit reviews. and yes, i'm a freaking genius for figuring that out.

      • You misread my comment.

        I don't think yelp would be so popular if users thought they might risk being sued by yelp if they create a review.

        This was in the context of Yelp going after those who agreed to the terms of service - the users writing the reviews in exchange for gift vouchers from Revleap

  • Yelp has for years been making "sales calls" to companies, promising to make those company's Yelp profiles look better by burying or removing negative reviews. I have talked to a few business owners about this; they get very animated when they talk about it. How/why the senior executives of Yelp are not in jail is beyond me.
  • The bad news is, so does Auschwitz. Really, look it up.

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