No car dealers received consumer alerts in the latest round, and Yelp Spokesperson Kristen Whisenand was unable to provide an exact number of how many were affected in past rounds of alerts. She says Yelp will issue a new round of alerts next week.
“The advice to car dealers is the same: Yelp takes this type of behavior very seriously. Not only is it misleading to consumers, it's also against Yelp's [terms of service]. What's more, reviewers could violate [Federal Trade Commission] guidelines if they write a review without disclosing that they were compensated.”
Since October 2012, Yelp has issued more than 150 consumer alerts on its website, Whisenand said. The consumer alerts are implemented to protect consumers and keep the site’s credibility intact.
In addition to its computer-run filters that check each review, Yelp has a dedicated team of staff who run sting operations. Yelp’s Director of Public Policy Luther Lowe says the company responds to businesses that post ads on sites like Craigslist that seek out individuals willing to post fraudulent reviews on the business’ Yelp page. Those e-mail exchanges are then used as evidence for Yelp visitors to view when a business is flagged with a consumer alert.
“By protecting consumers, we’re actually protecting small business owners, because if you’ve got Car Dealer A who’s participating in that type of nefarious behavior, that’s not fair to Car Dealer B across the street who’s running a great business, providing customers with great service at a good price and an honest deal.”
“These [types of companies] should think long and hard about their legal exposure before they post or purchase fake reviews.”
Yelp is also wrapped in litigation it brought against a third-party company this past June. The consumer review site alleges the business operates two websites, AdBlaze.com and BuyYelpReview.com, designed to post fake reviews for companies.
— Stephanie Forshee