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I-Team: NYC Restaurant Says Yelp Hides Positive Customer Reviews

The I-Team reported last year on the problem of fake reviews on Yelp and other sites

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Yelp Cracks Down on Fake Reviews in NYC

    Yelp has announced a crackdown aimed at fake reviews, even singling out businesses with questionable reviews in the New York City area. But one business owner is firing back. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

    (Published Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018)

    What to Know

    • The owner of West Village restaurant Baby Brasa say Yelp is hiding positive customer reviews on their Yelp page

    • Baby Brasa had been flagged along with 149 other businesses nationwide in a so-called consumer alert

    • Yelp may have flagged it because the positive reviews were coming from the same IP address; the customers may have been on the Wi-Fi there

    The owner of a West Village restaurant singled out by Yelp for possibly having fake reviews is blasting the site after he says it filtered out positive reviews from repeat customers. 

    Milan Kelez says he noticed a few weeks ago that customer reviews from repeat customers at his restaurant Baby Brasa were not appearing on its Yelp page.

    “They told the waiters that they wrote good reviews but we couldn’t find them on the site," said Kelez.

    Yelp had flagged Baby Brasa, along with 149 other businesses nationwide, in a so-called consumer alert.

    "Sometimes there are people that try to go to extreme lengths to try to mislead consumers," said Jordan Bantista, senior PR specialist for Yelp.  "We think the consumers deserve to know that."

    The I-Team reported last year on the problem of fake reviews on Yelp and other sites. On Wednesday, Yelp admitted 25 percent of reviews on the site might be fake.

    That’s one reason Jason Brown of ReviewFraud.org questioned the initiative announced by Yelp. 

    "I think 150 is an awfully low estimate of how many businesses are actually falsifying reviews," said Brown. "I mean, I could find 150 in just a week alone."

    "Since Yelp knows that 25 percent of their reviews are questionable and they're only able to identify 150 businesses, they could definitely go deeper and dive into it and actually get all the businesses that are engaging in these illegal practices," he said. 

    Back at Baby Brasa, Kelez said he plays by the rules and that Yelp's explanation for flagging his business makes no sense.

    "I contacted Yelp and they said it was because they were coming from the same IP address. I assume it's because they use our Wi-Fi," he said.  

    IT experts confirm to the I-Team that could explain why the restaurants reviews appear to be coming from the same spot. In the meantime, Kelez hopes he can clear the problem up with Yelp soon, and that his clients' good reviews can be displayed prominently.

    Yelp said these consumer alerts will remain on the business listings for 90 days, even as businesses try to sort out their reviews. At the end of the 90 days, if the fake reviews cease to appear on the page, the consumer alert will be taken down, it said. 

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