Yelp Bites Back: Website Sues Law Firm for Allegedly Posting Fake Reviews

On August 20, 2013, Yelp, Inc., an online consumer-review website, sued a San Diego-based law firm for allegedly posting false testimonials and reviews about itself on its Yelp page. Yelp alleged that employees from the McMillan Law Group posted the fake reviews from the same Internet protocol address. Yelp’s terms of service prohibit such fabricated reviews, which can be detected and deleted by the company through the use of advanced technology. Moreover, the website claims that the deceptive reviews violate California’s unfair business practices and false advertising laws.

However, the McMillan Law Group stated that Yelp’s complaint is nothing more than a “bullying tactic” as a response to the firm filing a successful small claims action against Yelp in February of this year. Julian McMillian, the firm’s owner, denied Yelp’s current allegations that his firm participated “in a circle of San Diego lawyers who trade positive reviews.” McMillian further stated that the reviews he has received are from attorneys that have referred clients to his firm. Currently, the McMillian Law Group has no reviews on Yelp, however a filtered page displays that four reviews were removed for violating the websites’ terms of service.

Attorneys should take precaution when signing up for online consumer-review websites such as Yelp and take note of the unfair business practice statutes and the state bar ethical obligations pertaining to attorney advertising, which vary by state regarding the use of testimonials, but generally prohibit the use of false and/or misleading advertisements.

Click here to read Yelp’s complaint.

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