It just got real
You’re likely familiar with the various lawsuits filed by businesses against competitors or angry consumers posting Yelp reviews filled with untruths, and they’ve gotten messy, involving higher courts overturning decisions and a lot of back and forth.
After having cracked down on fake reviews, Yelp is stepping it up a notch, starting with using a small bankruptcy law firm, alleging they filled their profile with fake reviews, according to Ars Technica.
In a clear effort to clean up their review offering, Yelp is taking a hard stance against fake reviews, be they negative reviews posted by competitors or positive reviews paid for or posted by companies on their own Yelp listing.
The new suit claims the employees of the law firm posed as clients to improve their company’s profile on Yelp, claiming that one employee used an email address with the firm’s URL to register his yelp account, giving the firm a perfect rating and leaving a comment simply stating “exceeded expectations.”
Another employee allegedly created a Yelp profile with the only activities associated with the profile being positive reviews on the firm’s profile. The employee said the firm offered a “pain-free bankruptcy experience,” further stating, “I am now back on my feet again financially thanks to the firm.”
The same person allegedly wrote about how the firm held her hand through her financial problems, but there is no record of her filing for bankruptcy at any time.
Another allegedly fake review came from a woman who married one of the attorneys at the firm, offering a perfect five star review, yet no record of a bankruptcy is on her record either.
The lawsuit claims the firm posted a total of four glowing reviews with four brand new accounts, using a computer at the firm’s office, all within a single hour.
But wait, there’s more
Yelp also claims the firm colluded with other local firms to write positive reviews of each other. They say the scheme took place as follows: one lawyer signed up for Yelp with a fake account using his real email address, leaving a review that the accused firm “seriously rocks,” and on the same day, another local attorney wrote that the lead attorney at the firm ““puts the smack down on creditor harassment right away.”
In the filing, Yelp said that this behavior “exemplifies the behavior that Yelp combats daily through its algorithms and investigations — the planting of fake reviews intended to sway potential clients with false testimonials. The [firm]‘s efforts to mislead consumers are particularly brazen and disappointing given that they have targeted some of the most vulnerable consumers of all — individuals who may be facing bankruptcy and who are looking for potential legal representation.”
Allegations include breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, unfair competition, and false advertising, all of which the firm tells Ars Technica lack merit.