When you are growing a business, you are usually doing whatever it takes to provide the best products or services to your customers. As your business grows, you will also gain a reputation that consumers usually rely on either by word of mouth or by online reviews. Your business’ reputation is vital. A reputation of a trustworthiness and reliability can bring many new customers to a business. Online reviews play a crucial role in building that reputation.
Oftentimes, when consumers are window shopping for products or services, they take their research online and one of the first things they will see will be a business’ online reviews left by consumers. Bad reviews have the potential to immediately turn away perspective clients or customers. As a business owner, you should do everything in your power to handle negative reviews so that they don’t ruin your business’ reputation.
Let’s say you have just discovered a negative review on your business. What can you do?
Well, it depends on whether the review constitutes defamation or if it is just a negative review. Defamatory reviews are legally actionable, whereas bad reviews are not.
- Defamation can be described as a false statement claiming to be a fact that is published to a third party which ends up causing injury or damage to the reputation of a person, business, or entity. For instance, if a statement is false, and a business loses customers due to the false statement, it may be considered defamation.
- A negative review is an honest and unbiased review that reflects the poor first-hand experience of a customer with a company’s product or services. For instance, a review of a product that explains the problem with the product upon using it. While you cannot have a court order for the removal of such a review, there are some things you should consider when handling these reviews.
So, in the context of negative business reviews, how can you prove a “false statement presented as a fact?”
If the reviewer was never a customer or a client to your business in the first place, their entire review is false because it is not based on their first-hand experience with the business. Reviews are supposed to be based on the reviewer’s first-hand experience with the business. Think here of a disgruntled customer trying to extort a business by having their friends and family members all write negative reviews to collectively destroy a business’ reputation. If that sounds wrong to you, that is because it is. Maybe the business deserved one 1-star rating, but not 7.
If the reviewer was actually a customer, you can still prove the statements made are false. For example, let’s say a reviewer who was once a customer states that the business is terrible with responding to emails and they were charged for things they never bargained for. If you have emails or other records that show you were diligently responding to their emails or other forms of communication, and that the customer knew exactly what they were being charged for, you could have a very strong case for defamation in a court of law.
Litigation could be expensive for all parties involved. Usually, sending a letter to the reviewer demanding removal of all published defamatory statements as a warning before initiating litigation proceedings will get the message across to them. It is in their best interest to abide, because if you are forced to initiate litigation and they lose in court, they must remove the post, pay out damages, and also pay the winning party’s costs associated to the litigation.
Greetings, I am the owner of Mike’s Auto Glass in Tampa along with other companies. We have had a former customer give us a negative review that could be considered defamation. I would like to engage your firm to send this individual a letter asking for removal and proceeding with further legal action if necessary. Thanks, Justin