FTC drops investigation of Yelp's business practices

Further solidifying Yelp’s ability to continue to conduct its current method of review filtering, a subject that has long been a concern of dentists, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided not to bring a case against the website.

Yelp recently said the FTC has dropped a review of its practices brought by complaints from small-business owners. This is the second time such an investigation of Yelp has been dropped by the FTC.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that more than 2,000 complaints about Yelp came in to the FTC about the review site from 2008 to March 2014. Also last year, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that it is legal for Yelp to manipulate its rating system to sell advertising, even though the company claims it does not currently do so. This ruling dovetailed off a federal judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought by small-business owners who claimed Yelp representatives tried to use its ratings to sway their decision to purchase advertising with the website.

A study conducted by the Harvard Business School and Boston University titled Fake It Till You Make It: Reputation, Competition and Yelp Review Fraud said that Yelp’s filtering algorithm does not treat advertisers’ reviews differently than non-advertisers’ reviews. And there are cases that have upheld the way in which the online forum functions.

CDA has written several articles on the subject of Yelp and online review sites. To find them, search “Yelp” or “online review sites”  on cda.org.

CDA Social Media Resources

There will be several lectures on social media and managing your online reputation at CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry in Anaheim on April 30-May 2, 2015, at the Anaheim Convention Center.

CDA Endorsed Program Intuit Demandforce is a company dentists can use to help monitor and grow their online reputation. More information on Intuit Demandforce can be found at cda.org/endorsedprograms.

An example of a social media policy can be found under the “Social Networking” section of the Sample Employee Manual.

Due to patient privacy laws, dentists should consult with their professional liability carrier if they are tempted to respond to an online review – positive or negative.  Responding to either scenario could be a violation of private health information.

Yelp also has an FAQ on its website that answers questions users have about reviews.