In light of recent allegations that local business review and rating Web site Yelp! has been extorting money from business owners in return for the removal of bad reviews posted to its site, the company said today it is embarking on a massive overhaul of its policies. The changes were announced in a blog post written by Yelp!’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppleman.
Yelp! is in the process of defending itself against a class action lawsuit, wherein plaintiffs contend that Yelp! calls businesses and demands monthly payments for “advertising contracts” in exchange for removing or modifying negative reviews.
“We’re adding the ability to see reviews filtered by our review filter and we’re discontinuing the “Favorite Review” feature that’s part of our advertising package,” Stoppleman wrote, adding that the changes are an attempt to increase trust and transparency.
“We’ve said all along we believe these incorrect notions stem from the combination of the filter and this advertising feature – and we’re practicing what we preach. Lifting the veil on our review filter and doing away with “Favorite Review” will make it even clearer that displayed reviews on Yelp are completely independent of advertising – or any sort of manipulation,” he wrote.
Yelp! began as an online startup but has released apps for a number of smartphone platforms that have proved popular for local search and business reviews. Yelp’s mobile apps allow users to “check-in” at local businesses.