Consultation For Your Reputation

Online Reviews and Defamation: A Growing Problem

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2024 | Cyberbullying |

Online reviews are commonplace these days, with customers often posting to share about good or not-so-great experiences with a business. In fact, businesses will often ask for reviews shortly after any customer interaction. However, when businesses invite people to leave online reviews, it can easily lead to defamation, which can ultimately harm the business’s reputation, leading the loss of both existing and prospective clients.

What Constitutes a Defamatory Review?

Business owners must first understand that there is a difference between a bad review and a defamatory review. Someone cannot be sued for leaving a bad review in which they are sharing their actual or perceived bad experience. In fact, customers have a right to leave these types of reviews if their experience with a business did not meet their expectations.

Defamatory reviews, on the other hand, are false and solely meant to damage the reputation of a business. For example, a common trend is for unhappy customers to ask their friends to leave negative reviews in order to paint a business in a poor light. However, when someone leaves a review for a business which they, themselves, did not patronize, this can be grounds for a defamation lawsuit.

Reviewers may also be tempted to lie about their experience if they do not like an employee or if they are unhappy with the business for any reason. Lying in a review is considered libelous and also constitutes as defamation.

Taking Legal Action Against Defamatory Reviews

Businesses can take legal action against defamatory reviews if the reviewer lied about being a customer or lied about their experience with the business. If you are a business owner and discover a defamatory review, the following steps should be taken if you’d like to pursue legal action:

Address the false review as soon as possible. You can do this by responding online and also contacting the reviewer and asking that they remove the defamatory review. Explain why the review is false and therefore defamatory. A demand letter can be used to give a deadline for removing the review and noting that a lawsuit will be filed if the demand is not met. A business can send this letter on their own, but it is often more effective if they hire an attorney to do it for them.

Pursue litigation. If the reviewer does not take down the defamatory review by the deadline set in the letter, litigation is the next step. This can be done by applying for an order that requires the reviewer to remove their defamatory review or by filing a civil defamation claim against the reviewer. Either way, the court will order the removal of the defamatory review(s). If you file a defamation claim, however, you can ask that the perpetrator award you damages caused by the defamatory reviews.

Preventing Defamatory Reviews

Can businesses prevent defamatory reviews? Though this may seem impossible, there are some measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of these types of reviews:

  • Set clear guidelines for customers who want to leave a review. This can include clauses that condemn the use of defamatory statements or false claims.
  • Have a dedicated staff member that regularly monitors reviews and online statements about the business and immediately alerts the business owner to any defamatory statements. This way, defamation can be dealt with in a timely manner.
  • Stay engaged with customers online to maintain an active presence. Give prompt and professional responses to any negative feedback in order to show the business’s commitment to customer service. This can help to lessen the impact of negative reviews and also prevent them in many instances.

Hiring a Defamation Attorney

Businesses should not hesitate to hire a defamation attorney to help them deal with defamatory reviews. Attorneys who work in this field are up-to-date on defamation law and understand how best to deal with violations of this law. By hiring a defamation attorney, a business can often quickly and efficiently deal with defamatory reviews and, in the case of reviewers who refuse to cooperate, seek litigation in order to recoup monetary losses incurred as a result of the false reviews.