Author: Scripta Ad Astra Staff
On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling in Levitt v. Yelp! Inc. dismissing an action by a group of small businesses that Yelp! extorted, or used extortionate sales tactics, to induce small businesses to purchase advertising with Yelp! in violation of the federal Hobbs Act (civil extortion) and the California Unfair Competition Law. The plaintiffs generally claimed that Yelp! sales people contacted them about purchasing advertising services in connection with their Yelp! pages. When the plaintiffs declined to purchase the advertising, the plaintiffs alleged that Yelp! manipulated its service to lead to a downgrade in the businesses ratings. The plaintiffs alleged that such tactics included removing positive reviews, re-posting negative reviews that had previously been taken down, allowing more negative reviews to appear first, and even authored negative reviews.