Following a Massachusetts court–ordered subpoena, Yelp unmasked the anonymous poster who left a negative review about Pageo Jewelers on the site.
However, neither store owner George Pelz nor his lawyer would respond to inquiries asking whether the three-store chain will press ahead with its defamation suit.
Paul Levy, an attorney with Public Citizen, the advocacy group that represented Yelp pro bono, says the court issued the subpoena after the jeweler presented evidence that the online statements were not true.
“We tried to create a test that plaintiffs have to meet,” Levy says. “We had argued Pageo shouldn’t be able to identify an anonymous user unless it showed evidence of falsity. Last week, Pelz walked into court with affidavits, which I thought did a reasonable job in establishing that she hadn’t sold them her jewelry.”
According to Law.com, to be considered defamatory, the statements must be both untrue and damaging to someone’s reputation.
The comment in question, from a poster named
“Linda G.,” complained that when she tried to sell Pageo-purchased jewelry back to the store, she received one-tenth of its value.
Pelz responded with a comment (since removed) that called her “a Yelp terrorist.” He later filed his lawsuit. While the suit did not target Yelp, it asked for a subpoena to reveal her indentity.
Pelz says via email that the name the store received was initially unfamiliar, though he eventually recognized the poster by her former married name. Pelz calls her a “marginal” customer who bought and returned some pieces for full credit from the store more than a decade ago. It last shows she had jewelry repaired in 2006.
“We have no record, nor do we have any recollection that she ever sold us any jewelry,” he says, still calling the review “fictional.”
When the suit was publicized on tech sites, the Pageo Yelp page attracted comments criticizing the action, which have since been removed.
Linda G.’s comment, however, is still there, if under “non-recommended.” It now mentions the lawsuit, and she’s sticking by her story.
“I assure you that [my review] is honest, this is why yelp kept it up,” she said. “They do their research … I will gladly fight for my rights and the rights of others.”