When you're indecisive about where to eat or looking for local business to try out, Yelp comes to the rescue. People who use the review site rely on the feedback from previous consumers to make informed decisions. Heeding their warnings can save a lot of time and money.
But what if businesses that don't like their reviews start to bully the people who left the negative comments? That's what one company attempted to do, luckily justice prevailed.
A couple in Texas hired a local pet sitting company to walk their dogs and feed their fish while they were away. They were dissatisfied with the service so they took to Yelp to post their complaints. The company gave a rebuttal and then sent the couple a cease and desist letter instructing them to remove the review.
Yelp advertises that they are very adamant about not allowing companies to pay to remove or change reviews. When the couple refused to remove it, the dog sitting company took it a step further. They sued the couple for violating a non-disparagement clause in the customer agreement forms. They were asking for about $6,700 in damages.
After this story became national news, the company filed a new suit in a higher court, adding defamation allegations and increasing the payment damage request to nearly $1 million. The couple's lawyer said this type of case is a "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation" (SLAPP). He said companies use it to stifle customers' complaints, which is a violation of freedom of speech.
The judge agreed with the lawyer and threw out the case. The pet sitting company is now responsible for paying the couple's legal fees.
Yelp has taken action to warn and protect people who post reviews. The above warning shows up when you go to the pet sitting company's page and other companies using similar tactics. Sr. VP Vince Sollitto says that Yelp doesn't believe it's right when companies make these "empty or meritless" threats to "scare [consumers] into silence." Yelp is doing what they can to assure people that their First Amendment rights will be protected.