Yelp has to be one of the most controversial companies ever created, at least in the eyes of many small business owners.
Consumers love its ability to help them find everything from doctors to dry cleaners, but businesses owners who get slammed in Yelp's reviews are none too pleased.
They may turn to "reputation management" companies who promise to fill their Yelp pages with only positive reviews.
The problem is only Yelp and its algorithm can truly decide which reviews get posted to a businesses's website and which reviews get buried.
That's why Yelp is suing two such "reputation management" companies, it revealed earlier this month, alleging trademark violation, unfair competition, and breach of contract, among other claims, reports Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar.
Yelp spokesman Vince Sollitto explained in a blog post about the lawsuits:
We sometimes hear reports about "reputation management" or "small business marketing" agencies that promise (for a fee, of course) to help businesses remove negative reviews and gain more positive reviews on Yelp ... These offers are scams.
Yelp called out two of them by name in the blog post and in the lawsuit. The owner of one of them, RevLeap, disputes the lawsuit and the things Yelp has said about his company. In an email to ArsTechnica, Revleap's Alec Farwell wrote, "RevLeap services are legal in all aspects of the law ... We level the playing field for anyone who uses the internet or reviews on any site."
Farwell argues that it is Yelp's filter that is harmful to what he calls an "open internet." Yelp's filter uses an algorithm that tries to identify fake or biased reviews while showcasing reviews that appear to be authentic.
Yelp has faced a steady stream of criticisms and complaints from business owners over the years because of that filter. The FTC launched an investigation in early 2014 after over 2,000 complaints were filed against the company, and after nearly a year, closed the investigation without taking further action. That marked the second time the FTC essentially cleared Yelp after looking at such complaints, Yelp says.