Yelp began its Consumer Alerts program in October of 2012 to help consumers make more informed spending decisions. Our team of detectives is on a mission to catch businesses which may be trying to mislead consumers. We place a clear warning on the front of the offending business’ Yelp page, and link to relevant evidence. In the past, the program has alerted consumers to deceitful behavior by urgent care facilities, doctors, dentists and more – exactly the types of businesses that consumers shouldn’t have to second guess.
This week, we’re releasing 85 new Consumer Alerts for businesses who were attempting to buy or offer rewards for positive reviews and some that had a large number of reviews submitted from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address (a hint that someone may be trying to artificially inflate their rating). A Consumer Alert message will be posted on these business’ Yelp listings for 90 days.
Although most of the millions of businesses listed on Yelp do play by the rules, and Yelp’s automated recommendation software is already in place to identify and weed out fake reviews, consumers have a right to know about the bad apples before deciding to spend money at their businesses. For example, prospective customers of Back 2 Normal Physiotherapy in Vancouver, BC would probably want to know that a number of their five-star reviews came from the same IP address before deciding to visit them for acupuncture or injury treatment. Likewise, you’d probably appreciate the heads up that tattoo removal shop Dr. Tattoff was caught offering Starbucks and Amazon.com gift cards in exchange for Yelp reviews before turning to them for help painfully removing that mistake you made during college spring break. Or if you’re preparing for a big apartment move and want to hire someone you can trust, it’d be helpful to know that we discovered Roadway Moving in Manhattan, NY was offering $100 American Express gift cards in exchange for 5-star reviews.
Beyond giving consumers a false perception of the business where they are about to spend their money and violating Yelp’s Terms of Service, writing a testimonial without revealing you've been compensated can also violate FTC guidelines.
Consumers have the right to be alerted when a business is attempting to deceive them. Rest assured that when it comes to protecting consumers, we’ll always have your back.