‘Right to Yelp’ Laws & Protecting Your Online Reputation

September 04, 2017

Congress is currently reconciling legislation to protect individuals who leave negative online reviews. Non-disparagement clauses and defamation suits used to prohibit or intimidate reviewers have led to a number of civil suits in various states. Even if a suit is dismissed it can generate costly legal fees for the reviewer. California and Maryland have already passed legislation referred to as ‘Right to Yelp’ laws intended to protect reviewers. The pending federal legislation would offer broader protection for online reviewers. The following information will help you understand how the law is changing and what you can do to manage your business’s online reputation. Call your LegalShield provider for guidance on the law where you do business.

Since the federal legislation is still pending, non-disparagement clauses are still legal in many states. Yelp now places warnings on the profile pages of businesses that use them. Non-disparagement clauses and defamation suits often generate negative publicity. A recent $1-million-dollar suit, over a negative review of a pet-sitting business in Texas, was ultimately thrown out. The case generated national headlines bringing far more attention to the negative review than the business likely intended.

How should you protect your business from poor online reviews? The best way to manage and improve your online profile is to focus on building an excellent reputation through great customer service. This will help you build a base of positive reviews on a variety of websites. Here are several tips designed to help you avoid common pitfalls and find ways to turn a negative review into a catalyst for improvement.


  •  Monitor your online reputation. There are online tools such as Google Alerts and Social Mention that allow you to monitor reviews and social media content regarding your business. Read both positive and negative reviews to continually refine your customer service.
  • Do not dismiss constructive criticism even if you disagree with the reviewer. Look at a negative review as an opportunity to improve. Why do you think the reviewer sees it differently? Getting to the root of the concern may help you uncover things you did not know where there. 
  • Keep your emotions in check. The best way to resolve the situation is to keep calm and remain professional. Turning a negative review into an open argument will only make matters worse.
  • Respond and take action to resolve the matter. If possible address the customer directly to resolve their concerns. It is vital to make an effort to win back the customer. Satisfying an unhappy customer may create a more loyal customer and ultimately generate positive publicity for your company.
  • Do not respond to harassment, vulgarity or threats. If a reviewer is harassing, you and your employees or using inappropriate language you may contact the website administrator and bring the review to their attention. Many sites do not allow inappropriate language, threats or harassment in reviews.
  • Do not break the rules. Many sites penalize companies that utilize review schemes, such as creating fake positive reviews. The best way to counter negative reviews is to improve customer service.