By Dave Andrusko
On Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against Yelp after the company “violated Texas’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act by appending inaccurate and misleading language to listings on pregnancy resource centers appearing in the search results on Yelp’s app and website,” according to a press release from the AG’s office.
At issue, Michael Gryboski reported, “was a consumer notice that Yelp used to include for pro-life pregnancy care centers, which claimed that those facilities provided ‘limited medical services’ and might not have ‘licensed medical professionals’ present.”
“The state’s complaint said the company unfairly targeted crisis pregnancy centers with the disclaimers and instead caused more confusion among consumers,” Jennifer Calfas wrote.
“A group of two dozen attorneys general, including Paxton, sent a letter to Yelp in February arguing the language was misleading,” Calfas continued. “The company said the information was accurate. It later changed the notices to read: ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers.’
“While Yelp has changed the language on its site, Paxton said in his complaint Thursday the first consumer notices violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. He said the company “remains liable for penalties and other relief for the duration of its unlawful behavior.”
The press release from the AG’s office provided additional context:
After the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision concluded that there is no constitutional right to an abortion, Yelp’s CEO issued a lengthy public statement expressing a self-professed need to “take action.” He boasted that Yelp provides special assistance to “select organizations that are fighting the legal battle against abortion bans,” and he attempted to rally the business community behind the pro-abortion cause, stating, “We need more business leaders to use their platform and influence to help ensure that reproductive rights are codified into law.”
Paxton’s office said that “Yelp’s CEO is entitled to his views on abortion, but he was not entitled to use the Yelp platform to deceptively disparage facilities that counsel pregnant women instead of providing abortions.”
Yelp appended language to all pregnancy resource center Yelp pages, indicating that those pages “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.” That disclaimer is misleading and often untrue because pregnancy resource centers frequently do provide medical services with licensed medical professionals onsite. Moreover, when informed by pregnancy resource centers that this statement was untrue, Yelp left up the misleading disclaimer on those centers’ Yelp pages until reproached by Attorney General Paxton earlier this year. Yelp’s disclaimer is particularly deceptive because it is in fact abortion providers that often do not have licensed medical professionals onsite, but the company did not append this disclaimer to abortion providers’ Yelp pages.
“Yelp cannot mislead and deceive the public simply because the company disagrees with our state’s abortion laws,” said Attorney General Paxton. “Major companies cannot abuse their platforms and influence to control consumers’ behavior, especially on sensitive health issues like pregnancy and abortion.”