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Consumer Alerts: No Tolerance for Review Manipulation

Today we’re releasing a new round of 182 Consumer Alerts to notify consumers of attempts to mislead them. These alerts will be removed from the affected Yelp business pages after 90 days if the offending behavior ceases.

We take a hard stance on discouraging businesses from offering incentives to consumers to post or remove reviews. We also caution strongly against businesses asking their customers to write reviews because review solicitors tend to selectively choose those they know will leave positive reviews. Our recommendation software works to sniff out these biases, which frustrates business owners who go to extreme lengths to boost their ratings, and we place Consumer Alerts on egregious examples we find.

By relying on our dedicated community of users, our automated recommendation software, and our team of investigators, we are taking a multi-layered approach to level the playing field for the benefit of consumers.

Some of the offenders in this round include:

  • Victory Vision Care in Boerum Hill, NY: through our internal investigations, we caught someone soliciting Yelp reviews in exchange for $15 via PayPal.
  • Mission Veterinary Clinic and Animal Emergency Hospital in Granada Hills, CA: someone associated with the company sent out an email asking customers for Yelp reviews in exchange for 10% off their next visit.
  • SouthEnd Dentistry in Charlotte, NC: we found an unusual number of positive reviews stemming from the same IP address, which may indicate the business was repeatedly asking for reviews–a common tactic used to inflate a business’s rating.

We take an aggressive stand against review solicitation, in particular. It’s important to us to encourage content on our site that is of the utmost quality, reliable, and not influenced by discounts or payments. Our recommendation software is engineered to place biased or unhelpful reviews in the “Not Recommended” section of a business page, which does not factor into a business’s Yelp star rating. For business owners looking to understand what is acceptable and what violates our content guidelines, check out our list of Do’s and Dont’s.

Yelp exists to empower and protect consumers, and these efforts are a part of our larger Consumer Protection Initiative. This includes the LIVES open data standard, integrating restaurant health scores, and our ProPublica partnership, incorporating health care statistics into Yelp business pages of medical treatment facilities, and more.

Our team of investigators is constantly on the lookout to protect the integrity of information on Yelp, including through tips from the community. If you find some suspicious activity, please let us know.