Since late 2009 more and more business owners have begun reporting that Yelp has approached them about negative reviews posted about their business. These owners allege that employees of Yelp have suggested that were the business to purchase paid advertising on the site, these negative reviews might be removed. This has been furiously denied by Yelp, but more allegations continue to surface from around the United States. As of March, 2010, there were three class action lawsuits pending on behalf of various businesses, accusing Yelp of extorting money from them to protect their online reputations.
In some cases businesses are alleging that Yelp actually fabricated negative reviews that they could then offer to remove in exchange for advertising. The possibility that this is true has led many businesses to turn away from Yelp, in spite of its high rankings in search engines, as they are unwilling to take on the risk that their business may be targeted in such a scheme. Instead, businesses may choose to address the problem of negative reviews in a different way: by burying them. With the vast majority of searchers looking at only the first page of results, pushing a Yelp review down to the second page can render its negative impact negligible.