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The Fake Yelp Review Worth $34,000

In recent years, Yelp has come to replace asking your friends for dining and shopping recommendations. Even beyond millennials, most of us have used the platform for coffee or bar suggestions, usually paying attention to the star rating and top reviews. But what if some of those reviews are false and potentially defamatory?

A recent case in Massachusetts has shed some light on whether or not defamatory remarks in Yelp reviews can have actual real-life consequences, when a jury awarded a jewelry business more than $34,500 in punitive damages.

A case of competing business going too far

The $34,500 bill is the result of a review left on Stephen Leigh Jewelers in Quincy, Massachusetts by a competing jewelry store employee, describing a generally bad customer service experience. Stephen Blumberg, owner of the shop, claims the encounter never happened and contacted other businesses with reviews by the original author, eventually tracking him down. The author was discovered to be the son of a rival jewelry shop owner.

With the review up for six months, Mr. Blumberg claimed that it drove away customers, many of whom preferred to take their business elsewhere.

A jury later sided with Mr. Blumberg, awarding him damages for emotional distress caused by deliberately and knowingly posting false information. However, while it found the rival jewelry shop owner’s son responsible, the jury did not find the rival shop itself responsible for the comments.

What is the Yelp policy?

For its part, Yelp encourages users to report false and defamatory reviews. However, the company has said they generally allow Yelpers to stand behind their reviews. Nevertheless, in the case of a false and defamatory review, an attorney contacting the company can make a significant difference, particularly if he or she is armed with a final adjudication from a court or other official documentation.

Source: Huffington Post, Jeweler Ordered To Pay $34,500 For Trashing Rival In Fake Yelp Review, 4/06/2017

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