The more successful your company becomes, the more likely your competitors are to resent that success. It is unfortunately somewhat common for thriving businesses to face unreasonable behavior from competitors who aren’t as successful. Those angry about a business’s success have always had the option of starting a rumor. For example, the owner of another restaurant could claim you paid off the health inspector because you had rats in your kitchen.
The internet has made it easier than ever before for business owners or even wait staff at a competing business to intentionally damage your company’s reputation. Thankfully, the internet also creates a way of potentially tracking down who is responsible for such behavior. IP addresses, repeating details and timing can all help you determine when negative reviews are the result of unfair competition, not just an unhappy customer or client.
If there has recently been a significant uptick in negative reviews left about your business, especially if you can trace them back to a competitor or to social media posts made by someone who owns or works for a competing business, and you may have grounds to pursue a defamation claim related to those coordinated negative reviews.
Why online reviews matter
Anyone can leave an online review, which means you may not take them as seriously as you should. Your first instinct might just be to ignore the negative chatter on your Facebook reviews or the sudden drop in your Yelp rating.
After all, as more people leave reviews, the impact of those few, very negative, reviews will decline. Unfortunately, enough negative reviews repeating the same detail, even if you know they all relate to one another, can cause real damage to your business. Researchers have found that online reviews are frequently one of the only sources of information that consumers use before choosing where to eat on a night out or what brand of product to purchase.
Those negative reviews left by a competitor bitter about your success of likely deterred many potential customers from patronizing your business. Pursuing a defamation claim against the party responsible can make it easier to remove those reviews later and also to diminish the lasting financial impact that unethical behavior by your competitors has caused.