Yelp Successfully Sued in Small Claims Court

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 11.32.21 AMAccording to the Wall Street Journal, a bankruptcy lawyer took Yelp to small claims court in San Diego and won a judgement of $2700.

….the judge describing Yelp’s advertising contract as “the modern-day version of the mafia going to stores and saying, “You wanna not be bothered?”

The case will be taken to a higher court on appeal.

The McMillan Law Group, which brought the claim against Yelp, agreed to an advertising deal with the site after it had become “a good source of new clients for us,” said attorney Julian McMillan, representing his firm in the court.  The deal involved the firm paying Yelp $540 per month in return for 1,200 ad impressions per month on the site. An impression is counted each time an ad is displayed to a user.

Mr. McMillan claimed Yelp did not deliver the 1,200 monthly impressions, leading to his firm cancelling the contract and asking for its money back. The site’s representative in the court, Bradley Bohensky, said the claim was based on a misunderstanding of how such impressions are measured, and that Yelp in fact “over delivered” on the ad impressions promised.

Several thoughts:
-The Wall Street Journal, and to a lesser extent the lawyer making the claim, rehashed the Yelp conspiracy theory of pay to play but this case seems to revolve around the one-sided and coercive nature of Yelp’s contract and whether impressions were properly delivered.
-Rocky Agrawal has pointed out the extremely high pricing of Yelp’s advertising and the often irrelevant impressions that they provide. This would seem to me provide another avenue for a small claims court action.
-The lawyer bringing the case has clearly understood that winning in small claims court is the best link generating scheme ever conceived of. And it appears that he is still running a Yelp deal. Hmm…

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17 thoughts on “Yelp Successfully Sued in Small Claims Court”

  1. I love how all 15 of the McMillan Law Group are now filtered. All of my reviews are now filtered on Yelp after refusing to advertise with them. I’m a photographer and all the people who reviewed me had contracts. I called Yelp and told them I could provide proof that the reviews were from contracted people. They didn’t care. They cited their algorithm and I laughed. I just ignore Yelp now. It’s the one time I hope a big guy like Google squashed them like a grape.

  2. It is interesting to see they have all their Yelp reviews filtered. I made a little research on one particular user whose review seems to have been filtered out – David M. (San Diego, CA). His review is from 7/4/2012. He has a profile picture and an overall of 12 reviews. I tool a look at some of his other reviews, here:

    These reviews are all (but one) shorter than the filtered one. All but one are written BEFORE the filtered review (so it means they should probably have less credibility). Obviously this is not some conclusive research, but it is interesting to see that the filter apparently “doesn’t work properly” 🙂

  3. I just caught Yelp block 2 different listings. They also injected noindex code on both listings. You can not even find Acteva in Yelp search. Acteva is a company that needs to have their reviews kept public. There is no foreseen reason for Yelp to block out either review.

  4. This is a good precedent. I don’t think the people at Yelp are evil, but they need to be kept in check.

    Like Nyagoslav, I found the filtered reviews to be telling. For one thing, they were written in waves: a bunch at the end of 2010, several in March/April 2012, a bunch more in September 2012. Apparently the McMillan boys are asking clients in batches.

  5. @Mark – I “enjoyed” how the two reviews from Justine F., an obviously active Yelper, have both been filtered out. The other particularly curious filter “auto-decision” was to leave out that 2700 words review. Most of my blog posts are shorter than that, for crying out loud.

  6. I was waiting for this to happen. I’ve never liked the way Yelp is run and they won’t even let me delete my old business listing.

  7. Nothing surprising here, Yelp is notorious for their “Sales” pitches. several clients have mentioned how Yelp’s sales reps have called their office to blatantly offer preferential treatment if they cough up the $. Preference as in not filtering reviews and even removing negative ones.

    We all know what their game is, so hopefully this provides motivation for more local businesses to defend themselves, and perhaps it can serve as a warning shot to Yelp that they will have to be more careful with their “tactics”.

    Twitter: @MiamiStefano

  8. The Yelp review filter is broken. I have “checked in” to a business twice and still get my reviews filtered. Unless you write long detailed reviews , have lots of friends, and review a lot of businesses, you are filtered. Also, an impression is one crappy way to judge effectiveness. One day Google will stop giving Yelp relevance and they will be nobody. Can’t wait for that day.

  9. Yelp needs to go, they are NOT a legitimate Review site and the ONLY way to do business with them is to pay. This is called EXTORTION! How can they continue to operate this way…something needs to be done.

  10. I have filed a case Pro Se against Yelp Inc.
    Because they have ruined my business (Seattle’s Eastside),
    with their false reviews and one star rating on Google.
    I have refused to sign their contract and/or pay them “advertising money”.
    Could you help me to find an attorney?
    The case is becoming complex, for a non-attorney.

  11. A few months ago I was looking up some local places & found they all had horrible reviews.

    I decided to be a hero & write truthful, positive reviews since the places were all very good every time I went.

    But this week, I looked for my reviews & couldn’t find any of them publicly posted….after reading this article I am starting to understand not to trust Yelp. Bastards.

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