Is HighYa Legitimate: Will It Remove Bad Reviews in Exchange for Money?

Earlier this month we noticed something we’d never seen before: A report on Rip Off Report claiming that HighYa extorted the anonymous reviewer, demanding a massive amount of money to remove bad reviews.

The report couldn’t be farther from the truth. HighYa’s business accounts are free and so are the services included with those accounts – responding to reviews and contacting customers.

We aren’t the first company to get a report like this, though, and we certainly won’t be the last. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of articles from sites – Forbes is one them – discussing what to do in the wake of a malicious or fake report on Rip Off Report, or “ROR.”

Why is action needed? ROR reports never disappear, and, in the event that someone wants to research HighYa’s business accounts, the ROR report may come up.

That’s not good for HighYa or for our readers. We’re a trusted website and we want to keep it that way.

Extortion Is Rare, But Some Review Websites Require Money to Eliminate Bad Reviews

It’s not often that you’ll run across a website that asks its business customers to pay money to remove or bury bad reviews.

Yet while these straight-out extortion schemes are rare, companies do employ other programs that require yearly or monthly payments to regulate negative reviews.

“To our understanding, there are a number of companies that block out any ability for companies to engage with their customers’ negative reviews unless they sign up for their ‘accreditation’ program for rather substantial service fees,” HighYa co-founder Vlad Rappoport said. “So, it ends up being that a company will accumulate negative reviews, maybe some positive in the mix, and in order to respond and address them, they must pay money to utilize the host’s platform.”

Nick Vertucci, CEO of The Nick Vertucci Companies and founder of Nick Vertucci Real Estate Company, has a free business account with HighYa.

While he confirmed that HighYa has never asked him to pay for a business account nor to remove negative reviews, he said he has come across other reviews sites that have demanded payment.

“Many others run these schemes. That’s the drill – pay for play and extortion tactics,” Vertucci said. “They welcome fake reviews.”

When asked if HighYa has ever proposed a pay-for-delete arrangement, his response was: “Never!”

Addressing Bad Reviews Can Be an Expensive Proposition

When we read the claim of extortion on ROR, we were reminded of what a tough position a business can find itself in. Bad reviews – particularly fabricated bad reviews – can damage a business’ reputation and affect its bottom line.

However, some business owners just don’t have the cash to take care of these negative and/or misleading reviews.

“Some companies do well for themselves but just don’t have the funds to be able to address these negative customer reviews, so the businesses are stuck with them,” Rappoport said. “How is that fair to the business? For some $5,000 is nothing, and for other businesses, it’s a substantial amount that can make them or break them.

Addressing Reviews Should Be Easy and Free

HighYa’s second co-founder, Dmitry Ozik, said that one of two scenarios most likely happened that led to the extortion claim.

First, the reviewer completely fabricated the scenario and wanted to leave a purposely negative review. Second, someone could’ve called HighYa customers pretending to be HighYa and asked for exorbitant dollar amounts to remove bad reviews.

Either way, Rappoport said, paying for anything related to a business account is directly opposed to HighYa’s business practices.

“We don’t want our business model to revolve around the negative reviews that get accumulated around a product which will trigger the business to have to pay for service just to address their negative reviews,” he said. “Our foundation always has been and will be, that if we as HighYa are taking on the responsibility of hosting these reviews, we better own up to it and allow for the business to address their customers’ concerns as well, for free.”

A Business Client’s Thoughts on HighYa’s Customer Service

Tim Skwiat, director of scientific affairs at BioTrust, said HighYa’s philosophy of free business accounts is legitimate in both idea and practice.

“I think handles negative reviews ethically and honestly. I am given updates when negative reviews are posted, and I am given the opportunity to respond to them directly,” Skwiat said. “There have been numerous instances when we have been able to get in touch with a customer leaving a negative review, ultimately leading to a positive outcome.”

He went on to say that the way HighYa works with businesses to respond to bad reviews is what sets them apart from many review websites.

“Many of the so-called review sites do not offer business accounts. These sites do not have representatives of the company readily available, and they tend to be non-responsive to any mode of communication,” Skwiat said. “The Team has always been very responsive to my requests. There have been multiple occasions when the team has verified that a review is fake, irrelevant, etc.”

Teensafe’s Ruth Doering also expressed her satisfaction with the way HighYa handles requests to investigate reviews that may be fake.

“HighYa is very honest. A thorough evaluation happens each time we submit a claim that a review is inaccurate,” Doering said. “Other review sites rarely return emails and are very difficult to deal with when fake reviews are posted.”

The frustration business owners feel when dealing with other review sites isn’t lost on Vertucci, who says it’s refreshing that HighYa handles bad reviews the right way.

“They have been very fair and will go the extra mile to get it right,” Vertucci said. “I've never had an issue with integrity with HighYa.”

Understanding How HighYa Will and Won’t Contact Business Customers

The possibility of scammers calling business clients on behalf of HighYa and demanding money has Ozik reinforcing the company’s standard practices.

“Most of our communications are done via an official email,” Ozik said. “If someone does call you ‘on behalf of HighYa’ and they ask for payment of any kind, it’s not HighYa, it’s a scam. Someone is trying to maliciously ruin our reputation or trying to get money out of you.”

J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren is a personal finance reporter who examines credit cards, credit scores and bank products. J.R. is a three-time winner at the Florida Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism contest and his advice has been featured in MSN and Fox’s money sections.