The FTC Has Gotten 2K Complaints About Yelp

Site is locked in legal battle over users' anonymity
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2014 12:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – How much do some small businesses hate Yelp? So much that the Federal Trade Commission has gotten more than 2,046 complaints about the company since 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports. Most are from small businesses saying they've been hit with unfair or fraudulent reviews—sometimes right after declining to advertise on the site. (Yelp denies that advertising has any impact on reviews.) A 1996 law protects Yelp and similar sites from lawsuits based on user reviews, but does not protect the users themselves, and Yelp says it gets about six subpoenas a month, many of them seeking reviewers' real names so businesses can sue.

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This month, Virginia's Supreme Court will rule on whether Yelp has to give up those names, thanks to a lawsuit from the owner of a carpet cleaning service, who says his annual sales fell $2.5 million after a spate of bad Yelp reviews that he couldn't match to actual customers. Yelp argues that the First Amendment protects the reviewers, but so far, lower courts have sided with the shop. Yelp's stock fell hard after the Journal's report, Ars Technica observes. But one analyst predicts that Yelp will weather the storm, CNBC reports. "It's not like all users will suddenly have to disclose themselves," he says. For more controversy concerning the review site, click here. (Read more Yelp stories.)

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