(ChattahBox)—Apparently the consumer online review site Yelp is taking a page out of the book of Tony Soprano. The San Francisco-based site is being accused in a lawsuit of running an online extortion racket, by publishing fake negative reviews about a business and then pressuring that business to ante up for a paid $300 a month subscription, in exchange for removing the negative reviews. A Long Beach veterinary hospital named Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital, didn’t play ball and cried foul, when the owner became subjected to high-pressure sales tactics after two suspect negative reviews appeared on the Yelp site. The veterinarian filed a federal class action lawsuit against Yelp for extortion.
The veterinary hospital owner Dr. Gregory Perrault sued Yelp for violations under the unfair competition law. His complaint noted that:
“Ratings-based websites, including Yelp.com, are highly popular, and have great power to direct the flow of commerce in a given area. Users frequently read ratings and reviews for all of the businesses in a particular category and locale and then decide where to spend their money based on those ratings and reviews.”