Yelp has filed a lawsuit against Revleap, a company that says it can help businesses improve their ratings, though Yelp says it actually spams them and cons them out of money.
Revleap, based in Los Angeles, operates a paid service that it says can "create a large constant flow of positive reviews that stay on top of your profile, and remove fake reviews," according to its website.
These sorts of messages are knowingly false, Yelp contends in a lawsuit filed Friday, because Revleap has no way of removing bad reviews or getting good ones to appear more prominently.
In addition, Yelp says, Revleap uses gift cards to entice customers into writing positive reviews about its clients to deceptively boost their ratings, Yelp said in a blog post.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to end the practice along with unspecified damages. Yelp says it hopes the lawsuit will help businesses distinguish between companies playing by the rules, and those using Yelp's name to make a dollar by taking advantage of small businesses.
Revleap's owners expressed dismay upon being told of the lawsuit. Co-owner Alec Farwell said Yelp is "destroying small business owners" and called the accusations "ridiculous."
Yelp's terms of service prohibit compensating someone or being compensated to write or remove a review, as well as the posting of fake reviews or other conduct that could lead to biased reviews.
Revleap would not say how many clients it has, although its clients have affiliates in 2,000 locations across the U.S., its co-owners said.
Yelp has faced its own allegations of manipulated reviews, with some companies claiming they received fraudulent reviews after turning down pitches to advertise. But the U.S. Federal Trade Commission closed its investigation of Yelp last month without taking any action.