According to a Wired article today, a lawsuit has been filed that alleges Yelp “tried to get a Long Beach veterinary hospital named Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital to pay $300 a month — for a minimum 12-month commitment — to suppress or delete reviews that disparaged the hospital.”

But according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court (.pdf) for the Central District of California, the site manipulates the reviews, and therefore a business’ ratings, through an extortion scheme that offers to remove a business’ negative reviews or relocate them to the bottom of a listing page where fewer visitors will see them, if the business purchases a monthly advertising subscription.

Personally, I have no love for the site.  Outside these allegations, I believe they encourage an us-vs-them mentality among reviewers that puts small businesses at a significant disadvantage.  It’ll be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out.