In an Utopian Yelp kingdom, it would have very little effect, since the
Web site already has a disclosure policy on its books, which the
company sent to us when we requested comment on the new FTC rules:
course it's ok if you were given something for free or at a discount
independent of your review, but you should always disclose any special
treatment, gifts, or discounts in your review."
Yelp outright bans reviewers from accepting free things with the
understanding that the Yelper would then go write a five-star review.
Yet when we reported a feature on Yelp
earlier this year, it became clear that the Yelpers operate on the
honor system. Many were very serious about staying independent, and
would rail against any Yelper who would accept freebies in exchange for
good reviews. Reports of the undisclosed freebies usually came from the
business owners. One restaurateur said he'd usually send over free
drinks to people he'd identified as Yelpers -- some which may have been
disclosed in the resulting review, some not. One florist said he'd sent
Yelpers free bouquets in hopes of getting good reviews, and, in at
least one case, it was never noted in the critique.
honor system would seem to have the teeth of federal law behind it. But
don't expect a rogue Yelper to be smacked with a heavy fee anytime
soon. In an article by IDG News Service,
the assistant director of FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, Richard
Cleland, said the agency would be more focused on warning the bloggers,
and leaving the fines and penalties to the advertisers.
"In terms of bloggers, we're primarily focused on education," he told the news service.
"There are hundreds of thousands of bloggers out there. It's just not
practical to deal with them on a case-by-case basis."
The message: Yelpers, carry on like usual.