Would the threat of being sued stop you from Yelping about a terrible burger? Yelp is cracking down on businesses that threaten their critics with lawsuits, now adding a mark to the company’s profile to indicate it’s engaged in such behavior. The new consumer alert discloses that a business “may be trying to abuse the legal system in an effort to stifle free speech.”
In a post published on Yelp’s blog yesterday, the company cites a couple examples of companies that have threatened legal action against reviewers. In one instance, a Texas couple was sued for posting what Yelp called “an honest but critical review” of a pet-sitting service. That company’s profile now includes this pop-up alert:
While no business owner likes getting a bad review, the U.S. government is currently working to protect consumers’ right to write them. One piece of legislation introduced in 2015 would effectively nullify “any of the non-negotiable clauses that allow businesses to slap consumers with large fines for sharing their honest feedback.”
Vince Sollitto, senior vice president of public affairs for Yelp, writes that 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.”
Yelp has been working in recent months to protect consumers from businesses that engage in questionable review practices; it’s has even gone undercover to crack down on fake reviews, or those made in exchange for some sort of compensation.
Interestingly, though, Yelp itself has been called out for its own questionable business practices — some of which will be the subject of a forthcoming documentary, Billion Dollar Bully.
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