Recovering From Defamatory Reviews

As a business owner, you know that online reviews can have a huge impact on the reputation of your business, whether they’re positive or negative. While a positive review is great for the reputation of your business, a negative review may turn away potential customers and scare off existing customers. Although customers are entitled to give an honest review of their experience with your business, there is a fine line between a negative review that has a truthful basis, and defamation. A defamatory review may hurt your business by spreading false information to potential customers, who are likely to trust online reviews.

What is Defamation?

The word defamation comes from a Latin term meaning to harm or hurt. It’s an umbrella term that is applied to any situation in which one person harms another person’s reputation by making a false statement. Defamation, as it is most known today, can take many forms, including slander and libel. To succeed in a defamation lawsuit, you must prove that your character has been damaged by someone else, which can be accomplished through words (slander) or writings (libel). When either one of these happens online, it’s referred to as cyber-libel or cyber-slander.

What Makes an Online Review Defamatory?

For a review to be defamatory, it must injure your reputation and expose you to hatred, contempt, or ridicule. For example, a negative review of your work or business that makes a claim of fraud or misrepresentation would likely be considered defamatory. While opinion is generally protected, when that opinion is stated as fact or is clearly incorrect (such as saying someone has no experience when they’ve worked in their field for many years), then it could get you into trouble.

Identifying the Damage Done by a Review

Legally, reviews can be defamatory if they are 1) false and 2) injurious. This is difficult for businesses to prove, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it—the more impactful your business is, and especially if your livelihood depends on it, then a review could be harmful.

The Options for Recovering from Defamation

If a review on a website like Google places you in a negative light, it may be defamatory and harm your reputation. Online reviewers aren’t immune from defamation claims and there are numerous legal options for dealing with negative online reviews, including:

  • getting an apology from whoever posted it,
  • getting it removed by making it clear that your company didn’t author or endorse what was written, and/or
  • seeking legal action against whoever posted these allegations.

Your best option is to work closely with an attorney who has experience with defamation cases to get your problem resolved.

The Best Ways to Fight Back

Simply adding a correction or rebuttal isn’t always enough to eliminate and minimise the impact of defamatory reviews. However, there are some exclusions and time limits that may impact your ability to sue for defamation. Therefore,  it is often necessary to seek the advice of a legal professional. At Hazan Hollander, we specialise in identifying and fighting back against defamatory and unjustified reviews.

If your business is affected by defamatory reviews, get in touch with our team today. You can call us in Melbourne on (03) 8538 1676, in Sydney on (02) 9233 4266, or submit an online enquiry below:

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