Can you sue for bad reviews? Sometimes, yes. But you will have to have a strong case as to why and how a particular review is impacting your business. Business defamation is considered a crime you can take legal action against. But what is it, how do you take action to protect or recover from defamation, and is legal action the best option?
According to attorneys and counselors at law, business defamation is either written or spoken slander, making a false statement about a person or entity that damages their reputation and therefore operations. Business defamation can happen online or offline, but with our ever-increasing digitized lives and businesses, business defamation often comes in the form of negative or false online reviews.
The cause or perpetrators of defamation are quite broad and elusive. You could have provided unsatisfactory customer service, or you could have certain values that a consumer doesn’t agree with. It’s even possible you have a competitor that is trying to get ahead of you in the market and has hired someone to defame your brand and reputation. Either way, defamation is serious and costly.
Business defamation could result in: your community ‘rising up’ against your business if you are perceived as dishonest, negative allegations could cause customers to leave and never return, and defamation that isn’t handled quickly and discreetly could make hiring new employees in the future very difficult.
Examples of fake reviews or online defamation are:
So before taking legal (and pricey) action towards defamation, it’s easier than you think to take things into your own hands first. There are two ways you can rectify a negative or slanderous comment/review. First, is to contact the author directly and ask for it to be removed, this is always an option you will want to consider, but only applies if you have the review posters contact information.
In cases of major false claims and prolonged negative business reputation, Google has specific violation guidelines that work to a business owner’s advantage to contact a platform directly to have the review removed. In this case, you could get legal parties involved, but overall, you’ll need to be prepared to explain why and how the review is negatively impacting your business. You will also want to be aware of the specific violations to Google’s guidelines the review at hand is makine when pleading your case to them.
If things are starting to get out of control and your business is making headlines from a false claim or review, there are other ways to take action and protect your business.
One of the best defenses against defamation or harmful business reviews is to show that your business is not defined by them. So how do you do that? By ensuring there are far more positive reviews and glowing testimonials for your brand than there are negatives.
All companies deal with negative reviews. Consumers understand this and don’t expect any business to have a perfect star rating. If you are able to compile and collect your happy customers’ reviews to overshadow defamation you are dealing with, there’s a good chance that defamation will become obsolete.
A second tactic comes into play when a defamatory review has escalated, and results in more negative exposure and reactions online. As a rule, every business should be replying to their online reviews, it helps not only build trust with customers, but shows the human side of the business and willingness to address or rectify mistakes. If responding to defamatory reviews with empathy and understanding still leads to an escalated crisis, it may be time to contact a Reputation Management company who can assist in repairing your brand’s damaged reputation, properly manage online reviews, and even in some cases permanently remove the defamatory content in question.
Bottom line, reviews can be hard to manage, and bad reviews can be even harder to get rid of. So if you find yourself in a reputation crisis due to false, extremely negative or defamatory reviews, you have options to rectify the issue.
Do you have proof of monetary loss? Proof a comment/claim is false? Proof the defamation is public and spreading? These are all signs you have a legal defamation case! However, these things can be hard to compile and even harder to prove in court.
So the question of whether or not you want to sue for slander is up to you. If you have at least 2 or more of the proofs above, it is worth looking into. You’ll want to first and foremost understand that as a private entity, you have rights and support on your side to protect slander against your company/entity. So, hiring a lawyer to investigate and mitigate further losses from a reputation crisis might be worth looking into, but it will also be pricey with no promise of results.
On the other hand, if your company is public or on its way there, that can put some elements of defamation in a gray area, since public companies often have more to prove, and hushing issues are seen as suspicious. But nonetheless, it is important to remember that public communication laws are ever evolving as the way we communicate in our digital world and speaking to professionals about recovering your reputation and customer loyalty is worth considering!