Re: Calling the El Reg Detective Agency!
"...any links to actual evidence that Yelp offers such quids pro quo?"
Yes, they do. But here's how they do it:
At the top of every review today, Yelp now proudly states:
" Your trust is our top concern, so businesses can't pay to alter or remove their reviews. Learn more."
No, they don't technically "remove" negative reviews, they hide them. Which is the go-to tactic these days for online "review pages": the vast majority of people do not have the motivation or drive to seek out anything but the stuff right at the top of any page they are viewing. If a company like Amazon or Google Play systematically put the positive reviews of a product or service right at the top, 99% of people will never read anything but those positive reviews.
SO they hide the ones their advertised businesses don't like. Take a look here: http://imgur.com/a/qaEjB
That's an example from today, using a desktop browser. Note how they hide the bad reviews and call them "Not Recommended", at the very bottom of the page (there are 20 reviews per page) in small, faint grey text with a tiny dropdown button. And I'm not sure that "unhide" feature is even available to people using a mobile to view reviews. (Probably the majority of Yelp users these days)
Sleazy, absolutely. Pity it's not thought of as illegal here in Capitalism Central.
I remember the days when Yelp was much more useful. Now you have to be very careful to not get misled by the reviews.