A popular customer review site is taking one North Vancouver user to court for making money on false claims.
Yelp, a website where consumers can find opinions on everything from restaurants to clothing stores, is suing a North Shore man for allegedly posting fake reviews and making a profit from them.
The company filed the lawsuit Sept. 19 in B.C. Supreme Court.
"Yelp has a large, engaged user community and we learned about this individual's actions from that community as well as from business owners who he had contacted and who, in turn, reported him to us," said Aaron Schur, Yelp's senior litigation lawyer. "We worked with our users to gain more information about who was behind this and ensured that our technical barriers to this kind of conduct were working effectively."
The reviewer, who is identified only as John Doe in court documents, used various email addresses and aliases, including James McNulty, jon tom and bill mads. Court documents reveal that he "resides or has a dwelling in North Vancouver."
According to the lawsuit, the man allegedly made deals with an unspecified number of businesses to post fake positive reviews in exchange for money, had contacted members of the public to post fake reviews which he would pay them for and threatened to create more reviews unless Yelp paid him money. The lawsuit alleges the North Shore reviewer has posted fake reviews since 2012.
The company Yelp was founded in San Francisco in 2004 and has reviewers based all around the globe. Yelp makes money through the advertisements it sells to businesses and states on its website under user restrictions, that by registering with the site users agree not to be compensated to write a review.
Schur said the company is taking legal action against the North Vancouver man because of Yelp's explicit rules against posting fake reviews.
"We are suing because we take an aggressive stance against people who submit deceptive content, and look forward to helping more people understand that we're extremely serious about protecting consumers from those who would like to take advantage of them through fake or unreliable testimonials," said Schur.
Schur said Yelp does have information on the individual in question that may be revealed as the lawsuit progresses.
"We hope that this lawsuit will help raise awareness of the illegality of such false testimonials, and show consumers and businesses alike that Yelp takes seriously any attempt to deceive the public through fake reviews," said Schur. "We hope this dissuades others from taking similar misleading measures in the future."
Yelp has a filtering software system in place that scans for fake reviews, though it states on its website that some still do get through.
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