After a quick verification check, business owners now can sign up for their own Yelp "owner" accounts, which allow them to advertise promotions and--something businesses have requested of Yelp for years--the ability to respond to reviewers publicly. Previously business owners concerned about reviews of their establishments could only contact reviewers privately. The user-reviews Web site opened up the system in April following a growing perception of the site as anti-business for its lack of a system to address reviews that owners claimed were false and/or malicious.
The move also came on the heels of a few Yelp-related lawsuits that hit the news in January. First, a San Francisco chiropractor settled a defamation and false light suit he filed in 2008 against a former patient who wrote a negative Yelp review; days later a Bay Area dentist filed a similar suit that named a reviewer as well as Yelp itself. (Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman responded to the suit on Yelp's official blog by noting, "One thing we are sure of is that litigation isn't a very good substitute for customer service.")