Consumers have more influence and information than ever when it comes to voicing their opinions about their experiences with specific companies. Between the ability to quickly share an opinion with huge networks of people on social media and the feeling of anonymity some users have, it is incredibly easy to post a review without giving much consideration to the impact it could have.
However, California business owners know that reviews have the potential to make or break a company. When reviews are good, honest and helpful, they can help everyone have a positive experience. If reviews are bad, the repercussions for a company can be incredible, from lost profits to permanently damaged reputation. With all that may be riding on these reviews, it can be important for business owners to know if and when it may be appropriate to file a legal complaint.
Generally speaking, company owners don't typically take legal action against individuals for posting a bad review online. However, under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to file a claim citing trade libel or defamation. Before you do this, you need to be sure that specific elements exist.
Let's imagine someone posted a bad review online about a contracting company. The review stated that the contractor was always late, performed shoddy work and then charged more than was promised.
In order to have grounds for a trade libel case, the contractor would need to prove that:
- The statements the reviewer made were fabricated, exaggerated or otherwise false and damaging.
- The reviewer made the statement to a third party.
- The contracting company lost business or suffered other monetary harm as a result of the reviewer's statement.
It is important to understand the last point, in particular. If someone says something false or misleading about your company online but the statement doesn't seem to affect the business' reputation or your financial bottom line, then any legal action would likely be fruitless.
However, if your business has indeed suffered as a result of a defamatory statement, you would be wise to discuss the available remedies with an attorney. With legal guidance, you can take the action necessary to protect your company without having to shift your focus away from running your business.