A federal appeals court has given the consumer review site Yelp permission to lower or raise overall business ratings in exchange for money. Yelp has been accused of giving businesses that advertise with them higher ratings, but the claims have never been proved in court. Now the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco says that Yelp is allowed to do so.
“The business owners may deem the posting or order of user reviews as a threat of economic harm, but it is not unlawful for Yelp to post and sequence the reviews,” Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the three-judge panel. “As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the threat of economic harm that Yelp leveraged is, at most, hard bargaining.”