Yelp CEO is encouraged by antitrust case against Google

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Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has long been convinced that Google has a monopoly in the internet search market and said a recent U.S. antitrust case against the company validates his position.

“We’re very encouraged by that,” Stoppelman said in an interview on Bloomberg TV Wednesday. “Google has behaved illegally and has leveraged its monopoly in ways that are destructive to innovation and competition. It’s bad for consumers, bad for small business owners.”

Yelp, a local search provider that collects reviews of restaurants, shops and services, says Alphabet’s Google, which controls about 90% of the online search market, abuses its position by putting its own reviews higher in search results than those of its rivals.

“They’ve really tried to maximize the revenue and in doing so have put the consumer in the back seat,” Stoppelman said. “There’s no organic content anymore.”

Google chief legal officer Kent Walker has argued that people use Google search “because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”

Yelp and other small businesses faced a moment of “terror” in the early months of the pandemic, Stoppelman said, as cities shut down and people stayed indoors. But by the third quarter, Yelp reported sales that beat analysts’ estimates.

“We certainly took a pretty big hit in advertising dollars that people paused,” he said. But “looking at Yelp’s performance in the third quarter, we’ve really come back, in a big way, faster than even we were hoping for.”

About 220,000 businesses that were temporarily closed had reopened, according to Stoppelman’s estimate. That’s good news heading into the holidays, he said, adding that it shows the “resilience of American entrepreneurship.”

Once a vaccine is rolled out, Stoppelman said he expects Yelp’s business to further improve. “That’s a great tailwind, but I think Yelp is on solid ground regardless of the pace of that vaccine rollout,” he said. “When we actually put out guidance for the fourth quarter, we weren’t contemplating necessarily a vaccine.” The company said it expects revenue of $220 million to $230 million in the final three months of the year.

Yelp’s shares jumped 19% on Monday after news that a vaccine in development by Pfizer Inc. and German biotechnology firm BioNTech SE appears to be more than 90% effective, giving hope for economic recovery to small businesses.

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