You just received a negative Yelp review. Is there anything a business can do to combat customer’s disgruntled statements? Can they be removed?
The short answer is yes, but there is more to the story. Continue reading to understand why Yelp is not liable and the consequences business should consider when fighting back against false reviews.
Yelp is Protected by Law
Yes, it is possible to remove negative reviews from Yelp, but it is certainly an uphill battle. That is because a federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, immunizes websites like Yelp from liability for publishing what its users say. This law serves an important function in the online space and has given websites like Facebook, Twitter, Trip Advisor and others the stability needed to grow and expand. But, it makes it difficult to remove content that you disagree with.
Yelp’s Terms of Service
However, even Yelp would agree that certain statements have no purpose on Yelp. Yelp’s Terms of Service provides a framework for determining what statements do not belong. Specifically, Yelp has published “Content Guidelines” that prohibit the posting of fake or defamatory reviews, posts that violate intellectual property rights, or threaten others, among other items.
The Best Method to Remove a Negative Review
To force Yelp to consider removing a review, you need to provide a concise argument as to why the posting violates Yelp’s own rules. Usually this means proving a statement to be defamatory, i.e. false and injurious to reputation.
The more objective proof you possess to prove the falsity of a negative review, the better your chance at having it removed. For example, if a negative review is based on a “I didn’t like XYZ,” you probably will not have much proof to disprove that statement. That is someone’s opinion and they are entitled to post it on Yelp.
But, when someone posts that shipping took 6 weeks, they received the wrong product, or that a refund policy was not explained to them, it is likely you have proof to the contrary. For example, your records will show when shipping was completed, what the customer ordered and what was delivered, and the customer’s authorization that he/she read the refund policy. When you can prove statements to be false, you have a higher likelihood of having the comments removed as being defamatory.
Contact the Poster at Your Discretion
Another option to remove a negative review is to contact the poster directly. If the poster’s identity can be determined, a letter can be sent to the poster demanding the review be removed or a defamation lawsuit will be filed.
While this is the most direct route, it has potential consequences. For example, the poster could ignore your letter, or worse, get back on Yelp and tell the world you just threatened to sue him or her. You may not want other customers, or potential customers, to be aware of your threat of legal action.
There is little doubt online reviews carry significant weight in the mind of the purchasing public, but businesses are not helpless. It is best to consult with an attorney to review the postings at issue, draft a demand letter to Yelp, and discuss the potential for contacting the poster directly.