You’d think that lawyers would know better. According to a lawsuit filed August 20 in California Superior Court, Yelp is suing the McMillan Law Group for breach of contract and related claims. The site claims the law firm posted fake reviews about itself.
The Yelp suit recites that McMillan Law Group employees used personal Yelp accounts or created fake accounts to write five-star reviews about the bankruptcy firm. In many of these cases the users posed as clients of the firm and fabricated experiences.
The following is an example representative of the claims in the lawsuit (full complaint below):
The suit also claims that a “circle of local lawyers” in San Diego California, where McMillan is based, traded reviews with one another, each posting “rave reviews” of the others.
As an aside the complaint offers a bit of insight, through inferences, into the methodology behind Yelp’s controversial review filter.
The case asserts violations of Yelp’s terms of service (breach of contract). The claims also invoke California Business and Professions Code Sections 17200, 17500 and related provisions, which prohibit false advertising and deceptive business practices.
The evidence, as reflected in the complaint, appears pretty overwhelming.
However there’s an interesting wrinkle. Earlier this year McMillan sued Yelp in small claims court and won a judgment of $2,700. The law firm says it was “coerced” into advertising on Yelp to receive favorable views. It also claims that it didn’t get the promised leads, sought a refund and was compelled to pay a cancellation fee.
The following is from a blog post on the McMillan site, in which it solicits small business clients who feel they’ve been similarly “coerced” into advertising on Yelp:
MLG had been coerced into entering into an advertising contract with the internet giant who promised results. The judge in the case agreed that (a) the contract was void due to fraud in the inducement, and duress, (b) that Yelp had failed to provide any of the promised services, and (c)that the contract itself was a contract of adhesion.
This is a massive victory for every small business in the country currently advertising with Yelp, Inc. We can help you get your hard earned money back. At present, we are asking anyone who was threatened by Yelp to contact the firm. If Yelp contacted you and similarly tried to coerce you or did coerce you into an advertising contract with the Company, please contact McMillan Law Group.
The McMillan firm argued to Bloomberg that Yelp’s lawsuit is essentially retaliation for its earlier small claims victory. However Yelp appealed the small claims judgment and the matter has now been referred to binding arbitration.