After a lot of complaints by business owners, Yelp has finally decided to let them respond to reviews of their businesses on its web site, the AP reports. As the Express previously reported, many business owners complained that they were essentially being held hostage by negative reviews - whether true or false - by Yelp, whose sales reps told them that they could move or remove them (and in some instances did actually move or remove them) only if they advertised. In some cases, biz owners said positive reviews were removed when they refused to advertise. The only option business owners had was to privately message the reviewers to get them to reconsider; otherwise, Yelp reps told some business owners that the web site would be more responsive to their concerns about false reviews if they paid them money.
Today, according to the AP, Yelp told its active users in an e-mail that they will allow business owners to post replies to users' reviews as long as they sign up for a free business owner's account. The feature will be activated in a week or two. But Yelp was apparently thinking about charging for this feature. In a "Yelp Client Feedback" survey sent in an e-mail April 3, Yelp asked business owners how they felt on the subject of "allow owner/manager to publicly comment on reviews" with the options being "don't want it," "don't care either way," "nice to have, but not important," "want it, but would not pay extra," or "would pay extra for this." No doubt they got an earful from angry business owners. This appears to be a step in the right direction to giving business owners a fair say in what can sometimes be false, damaging reviews of their businesses.