This is not an isolated problem and it seems if you advertise with them they remove negative comments and leave legitimate positive comments. If you are not an advertiser any positive comments disappear. Just look up YELP on RipOffReport.com and you will see it happens to all kinds of businesses.
It seems this is an unfair trade practice to try and strong arm people into advertising. I am surprised not one attorney so far has even addressed this. I have tried the internal "process" and will try it again. I also want to make a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. As to Yelp's "algorithm" process it seems it only happens to drop positive reviews and if it was truly what it is held out to be, it should drop negative reviews as well. I am going to suggest that anyone else who has had this happen to them write here to Avvo and also to the FTC and then maybe some one might consider a class action or that these practices be brought into the light. I assure you if it happens to you, you will believe it and not dismiss this so lightly.
I don't agree with you that Yelp only posts negative reviews. If I am wrong, and they do do this, and businesses have suffered damage...well, a nice fat class action lawsuit against Yelp might dissuade them..
I imagine that all review sites have had problems with businesses being dissatisfied with reviews. Yelp's got some secret algorithm that supposedly screen out fake reviews and has various other rules, but I know from personal experience that they don't just delete false reviews if you're an advertiser.
So before you make any assumptions based on what's happened, reportedly, to others, use their internal system to address any problems you're having before you start thinking about suing anyone.
Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have some definitive basis to show this, as my colleague suggests, consider a class action. A statistical analysis is in order, not subjective analysis where viewpoint can cloud observation.
We do not have a client/attorney relationship until you make an appointment, we discuss your case face to face, I accept a retainer, and we explictly agree to enter into representation.
A lot of my clients have discussed the issues with the various web sites that have decided to make themselves the watchdogs of the public. Regrettably, this has been one of the worst things to happen on the Internet. You find situations where anyone who does not get what they want from someone else has no problem in bad-mouthing the business on the Internet and costing them thousands, (and in one client's case) hundreds of thousands in lost business.
If the public understood how damaging this is, I wonder if they would still do it? A reputation that takes decades to build up can be destroyed in a day. Most people do not realize that there are two sides to every story and as a result simply go to the next listing on the Internet.
We have represented a number of firms in this quandary and the solution we have devised is to ignore the situation and hire an SEO firm to move that listing down so far that it is not visible when a company search is conducted. This is especially the case with ww.RipoffReport.com. That site, in a way, punishes you for responding by having two listings up now that will often come up 'above' your own web site for you company. This will work if you have one or more negative listings and people normally do not search you by going to Yelp, for example, when searching a restaurant.
You have to be prepared for the costs of a comprehensive SEO (Search Engine Optimization) campaign, which will be about a thousand a month for 6 months. However, you have to ask yourself the more important question, which is how much does it cost you if you 'don't' do it.
Another option, far more expensive, is to simply change your company name and rebrand it. This will take some effort but at least you can start fresh. This is especially the case where the information posted is very destructive. People are now posting things to companies they have never visited on behalf of friends, etc., and in the meantime leaving a mass of destruction in their paths.
If you know who posted against your company, and you know it is false, hire a lawyer and file libel lawsuit and file an injunction to prevent the person from placing that information on other sites, or else your own web site will never come up.
The last thing I would like to state on this 'Yelp' issue, for lack of a better word, speaking as a business consultant as well as a business lawyer, is that you need to look inside first. Look at your company and how it operates. Too many people are concerned with making money, while the quality of their customer service levels deteriorate due to poor, undertrained, or underpaid staff. I had one client who was from a medical office and wanted us to help them with SEO issues because they had bad reports on a number of web sites. Well, when I tried to call the doctor with a courtesy update, his staff was so rude to me that they wouldn't even take my message, telling me they know the tricks of a sales call. Needless to state, I asked him to hire someone else. Again, be careful with your admin staff, what can often be "the enemy within".