Yelp Warns Users About Businesses That Sue Consumers

A pop-up warns consumers that a business may be trying abuse the legal system

Companies that consistently take Yelp reviewers to court will now be marked with the cyber equivalent of a scarlet letter—“L” for litigious.

The review service is now adding a consumer alert to the profiles of companies that issue what it calls questionable legal threats.

“This business may be trying to abuse the legal system in an effort to stifle free speech,” reads the pop-up (pictured). “Reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp.”

A blog post attributed to Vince Sollitto, Yelp’s senior vice president, communications and public affairs, says, “There will always be a small handful of businesses who mistakenly think it’s a good idea to threaten consumers who exercise their free-speech rights. Consumers don’t necessarily know that these threats are sometimes empty or meritless (and often both!), so the threat of legal action is enough to scare them into silence. We don’t think that’s right.”

The warning has so far been attached to the profiles of a Texas pet-sitting service, a Florida moving company, and a New York City dentist, Sollitto wrote.

The post says that the recently introduced Right to Yelp bill prevents the inclusion of gag clauses in consumer contracts. Another bill, the Speak Free Act, protects honest reviewers from lawsuits, it says.

At least one jeweler has commenced legal action against a Yelp reviewer. The suit was later dropped when the post was removed.

JCK has looked at how jewelers have handled critical Yelp comments here.

(Photo courtesy of Yelp)

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