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Popular business review site 'Yelp' comes under scrutiny

Reported by: John Treanor
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Updated: 9/05/2013 4:58 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews 3) -- A website designed to let customers review businesses is getting its own negative reviews today. One local business is criticizing Yelp for what it says feels like blackmail, and they're ready to go to court to prove it.

It’s something you see in mafia movies or the Sopranos: the shake down or the door-to-door visits that offer "protection." If you do not pay, maybe your business is fine -- or maybe some bad things might happen.

But it's all just Hollywood hype right? But one local business says it’s happening here in Las Vegas. Just replace the neighborhood with the Internet and Marilyn Rozak says those mobsters are Yelp.

Yelp is a website fueled by customer reviews. The ratings are typically a mix of good and bad, but on the Carpets Galore site page, Rozak says, bad reviews started coming in without any cause.

“They put bad reviews suddenly,” Rozak said. “Bad reviews are coming out of nowhere.”

One star review followed one star review, hinting that Carpets Galore is a bad business. But the reviews might not tell the whole story.

Under the last review, there is a link marked "filtered." Only after clicking the link and entering a CAPTCHA can you see most of the business's 5-star reviews.

“I would think you wouldn’t come here, you would think I’m a shoddy business that don’t care about your customers,” Rozak said.

Rozak says months ago she noticed that Yelp was charging a $350 advertising fee which she was told was "good for business." She stopped paying, and her five-star ratings disappeared.

“There’s a class-action lawsuit going on and I’m definitely joining,” she says.

Lawerence Murray represents dozens of companies suing the website in California and says Rozak's story is common.

“[Yelp says] 'Oh no, you can't touch us, we just pass along information.' When in fact what they’re doing is they’re manipulating reviews based on how much money you pay them,” Murray said.

For their part, Yelp responded to News 3 questions by pushing us to their website, which talks about the filter. The site addresses these types of allegations, saying "the filter doesn't punish non-advertisers, either. Feel free to check out the many highly rated businesses on yelp that choose not to advertise."
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