A trend has been emerging where companies are suing individuals for defamation of character or libel. It is a frightening experience to have a company come after one person for posting an online comment.
Here are a few examples:
- A Florida man bought a router from a company on Amazon and didn't like it and left a negative review. A letter was mailed from the company's law firm threatening a lawsuit for an "illegal campaign to damage, discredit, defame, and libel." The individual did go a bit too far with the review - including claims that the positive reviews for the router were probably fake, and that the router was re-branded from another company. He also got a number of upset commentators to attack the company online, which he should not have done.
- A woman in Arizona got into some legal trouble after she posted a bad review of a car repair shop on Yelp. The car garage sued her, although it dropped the charges when she acquiesced to take down the poor review.
- In 2010, a towing company sued a college student for $750,000 in damages over a Facebook page. The page was created to discredit and humiliate the company after his car was towed. He claimed it was towed unfairly. The student counter-sued, but eventually both dropped their suits when it was clear neither would go to trial.
Some would say not to post negative reviews. That is certainly one way to prevent a lawsuit, but there are better ways to handle it. Follow these simple rules and you should keep yourself out of trouble.
- Stay factual. Don't post disparaging remarks about the !@#$ company or manager. Post the bad and the good about the product and/or service.
- Give them a chance to make it right. Before posting a bad review contact the company to give them a chance rectify the bad service or product.
- If contacted, listen to their side. Most companies will reach out before suing. Give them a fair chance to tell their side. They may only have a problem with a portion of the comment. Tweaking the comment may prevent them from taking a legal course of action.
- When all else fails, remove it. If talking with the company gets you or them nowhere and they are steadfast on legal action, you probably don't need the long drawn out legal battle that could cost a lot of money. Just take the comment down. There will be other opportunities for justice.
Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to know the law. If you find yourself in a similar situation you should consult a legal professional.