Yelp's Ad Practices: Extortion?
'I'm no lawyer, but I know a racket when I see one,' writes David Lazarus
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2014 1:12 PM CDT
This image shows a Yelp web site on a computer screen in Los Angeles Thursday March 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

(Newser) – Rick Fonger, who owns a California jewelry store, used to advertise on Yelp. The day after he stopped, last month, a Yelp employee called to tell him that his competitors' ads were now showing up above the reviews on his store's Yelp page. "She said that for $75 a month, she could make those ads go away," Fonger tells David Lazarus at the Los Angeles Times. When Fonger told her that sounded like extortion, "She said she could understand why I'd think that. But she said they do it to everyone." A Yelp rep later explained to Lazarus that she was simply offering Fonger the opportunity to "buy out the ad space on [his] own page." The practice does sound like extortion to Lazarus, and to the expert he consulted.

The Yelp rep "said Yelp is doing the same thing that phone books do: selling ads that accompany related business listings," Lazarus writes. "The difference, of course, is that the Yellow Pages never told businesses they could pay extra to get rid of someone else's ad." And therein lies the problem. Lazarus points out that other small-business owners have accused Yelp of threatening to make negative reviews more prominent if the owners didn't buy ads on the site. "Yelp succeeds by making a problem and then taking people's money to solve it," Lazarus writes. "I'm no lawyer, but I know a racket when I see one. Anybody who calls to say that you now have a problem but that they can make that problem go away for $75 a month isn't your friend." Click for his full column.

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Showing 3 of 9 comments
Apr 2, 2014 5:14 PM CDT
DUH do you think yelp is a horrible extortionist? There is only about one hundred thousand references to it on the internet, but what do I know? People's businesses are being damaged, defamed and slandered all over the country its stressing out almost all business owners and our lawmakers are fast asleep at the wheel. We are so screwed.......Just Google "yelp extortion" to see what the world thinks and knows about yelp's horrible extortionist practices.
Apr 2, 2014 9:57 AM CDT
Yes, they are extortionist, and then some. Heard to many disturbing stories of their unethical business practices.
Bama Eightyfive
Apr 1, 2014 9:19 PM CDT
yelp is a scam. So is 'angie's list'. And the 'better business bureau' The difference between the three? The thieving bitches at 'angie's list' wont even let you check to see who lied about you unless you pay their extortion fee. Absolute gutter trash filth. And people pay them to get a reference that is based solely on how much they extorted the contractor for? How is it that 'angie' isn't in jail yet?