FTC ends inquiry into manipulated reviews on Yelp

Some businesses claimed Yelp strong-armed them into buying ads.

Yelp's landing page on the desktop.

Yelp's landing page on the desktop.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ended a nearly year-long inquiry into Yelp's businesses practices, after some companies claimed they received unfair or fraudulent reviews after turning down pitches to advertise.

"After nearly a year of scrutiny, the FTC decided to close its investigation without taking further action," Yelp said Tuesday in a blog post.

For its review, the FTC looked at Yelp's recommendation software, what Yelp employees say to businesses about it, what Yelp's salespeople say about its advertising programs, and how Yelp ensures that employees are not able to manipulate ratings and reviews, the company said. Yelp's recommendation software is what the company uses to determine how it ranks and presents reviews to users.

The FTC received more than 2,000 complaints filed about Yelp between 2008 and 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported last year after a Freedom of Information Act request. Many of the complaints came from small businesses who said that Yelp played favorites with those who paid to advertise, while hurting those who did not. Some brought their claims to court.

In one suit, an animal hospital in Santa Barbara, California, said a Yelp sales rep offered to hide their negative reviews if they purchased ads.

Yelp said Tuesday, however, that "businesses can't pay to change their ratings or reviews and our salespeople don't tell businesses otherwise." Also, the company takes steps to weed out potentially unreliable user reviews, Yelp said.

A spokesman for the FTC declined to comment.

None of the cases brought against Yelp over manipulated reviews have been successful, Yelp said. This past September, for instance, a federal appeals court said plaintiffs lacked sufficient evidence to support their claims of extortion against Yelp.

The closure of the FTC's investigation is surely welcome news for Yelp, as the company faced a separate challenge last year with regulators. In that case, the company paid a US$450,000 civil penalty to settle charges with the FTC that it improperly collected children's information.

The FTC began a previous inquiry in 2010 into Yelp's ad offerings and software; no action was taken after that inquiry either.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags advertisingInternet-based applications and servicesyelplegalsocial networkingsocial mediainternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?