It has now become the norm for prospective customers to do a lot of online research before they decide to buy a product or a service. There are a number of popular online websites who post specific consumer reviews on a variety of products and services that allow prospective customers to know the pros and cons before making their purchase. Yelp is one of the leaders in the global marketplace as it provides consumers with an online portal that allows them to rate and leave real time feedback.
Businesses that have good reviews and positive customer feedback tend to do a lot more business and profit from these platforms. Yet a majority of businesses receive negative feedback and poor ratings which result in a loss of business and sometimes could very well put them out of business. Over the last couple of years, a number of business establishments have gathered together to approach the courts and state that their reputation is being tarnished by customer feedback that may not have any authenticity to it. They have pushed the courts to take action against such defamatory remarks and roll out SLAPP legislation that allows the courts to crackdown on customers who post negative reviews. SLAPP is an acronym for so-called, “strategic lawsuits against public participation”.
Billionaire and Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn recently backed a Nevada SLAPP law that would allow businesses to take legal action against customers who post negative reviews. Yelp which provides customers with an online platform to post such reviews was unhappy that Wynn decided to back Nevada’s SLAPP legislation and called him out on it with a blog post.
Steve Wynn will not change his mind about withdrawing his support for the SB 444 and he has demonstrated on numerous occasions in the past that he has no second thoughts about going after someone who looks to defame his casino brand or his personal reputation.
Steve Wynn’s opinion holds a lot of weight in Nevada as he has strong political connections and him backing such a bill could most likely result in its approval. Yelp stated that free speech and the right to express one’s opinion verbally as well as on social media should not be curtailed by the state. The blog also stated that if the state of Nevada listened to Wynn and approved the bill, it would be a tragedy for Nevada. If the bill is approved, it would certainly impact Yelp’s business model as customers would think twice of posting on Yelp and leaving any negative feedback.
Legal counsel Mitchell Langberg who has represented Wynn Resorts and Wynn stated that Nevada’s current anti-SLAPP law is too generic and has a number of loopholes which individuals can exploit to post negative feedback and attack a legitimate business. Langberg stated that Yelp publishes reviews without having a robust process in place to measure if those reviews are transparent and genuine.
Speaking about the current anti-SLAPP laws in Nevada on Nevada public radio, Langberg said “It’s also a mechanism that allows, for lack of a better word, online terrorism and character assassination. Disgruntled former employees, competitors, dissatisfied customers who don’t just have legitimate complaints but are trying to destroy a business’s reputation can get on Yelp and lie about what’s occurred to them, or hasn’t even occurred to them, with relative impunity in the state of Nevada.”
Wynn Resorts has thrown its support behind the controversial Nevada bill SB 444 which wants to limits Nevada’s protection against SLAPP lawsuits and allows consumers to be taken to court. The state of Nevada will most likely make a decision on the bill within the next week.