Bad reviews hurt a business. If you own the business that they hurt your soul. Nonetheless, Platforms like Yelp are the gatekeepers to quality now You have to accept that not everyone is going to like what you are doing.The good news is that you can protect your business against untruthful, inflammatory remarks. There is a point at which negative reviews become defamation.
There have actually been hundreds of lawsuits over negative reviews posted in online forums, but few people take action.
The first amendment only protects the truth. No one has the right to tell lies about you or your business. If a negative review in any public platform is negative AND untruthful, you can sue for damages. That is the definition of libel.
Now, you are going to have to prove that a negative comment was untrue if you are going to silence it. If a customer says that they were served a cold bowl of soup, you’re going to have a hard time proving the remark untrue. I suppose maybe the customer’s bowl of soup could have spilled on someone else who is suing you because the soup was too hot. If they have burn scars, you might be able to disprove that the soup was cold.
This is an insane example, but it demonstrates a case where a business is actually damaged by a negative review that you be proven untrue. This is grounds for a Defamation Lawsuit.
There are two types of defamation. We mentioned libel. Libel is the act of defaming someone by telling nlies about him or her, in the written form. This includes online reviews.
The second type of defamation is slander, which is spoken defamation.
You see a lot of slander during political campaigns.
The reason the top brass isn’t busy suing one another is because defamation is tricky business.
In order to win a defamation lawsuit you must prove the following:
a) That a statement was made.
b) That it was published for others to see (comments, reviews, etc).
c) That the statement caused you injury (emotional distress, loss of business, etc).
d) That the statement was false.
Awards in a defamation lawsuits generally require the offending party to remove false statements. Damages might be awarded for lost profits or injury.
You really need to pick your battles carefully though. You can spend a lot of money silencing negative reviews that may not actually be costing you anything. It’s also difficult to prove that the offending party is lying.
My personal advice to business owners who are on the receiving end of negative or untruthful reviews is that you respond to it once and only once. It’s enough to show that you are a business owner who cares. It allows anyone who reads the review to hear your side. Reach out to the customer directly if it’s possible and figure out if you can resolve their issue. Maybe you can get a negative review taken down just by showing a potential client that you want to do better by them. That’s how you win over people whom you disappointed, and we all have off days.
Now, if you’ve taken these steps and you are unable to resolve a negative and untrue comment or review that is causing your business injury, you can file a lawsuit against the perpetrator.
Just remember that lawsuits are a long and costly process. Don’t drag yourself into a fight if there aren’t sticks or stones involved. If the injury is real and the comment is false, take legal action. Just be sure you’re in a fight over something that matters, because that’s what matters at Money Matters.
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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