Articles Tagged with Online Review

photo-online-defamation-200x300Online reviews can help a business grow or cause it to shrink. They are increasingly powerful, double edged tools. Some businesses work very hard to obtain positive reviews and that effort can hit heavy head winds because of an anonymous, vocal, unhappy customer or two. If a business is harmed by a false, negative review, what can it do?

Americans benefit from free speech but that freedom has limits, including defamation. Generally if a business’ reputation is harmed by a false statement and it can prove damages, it may have a legal action for defamation against the party making the false statement. Defamation in a written form is libel while slander is oral defamation.

The California Court of Appeal, First District, Division Four issued a ruling in July protecting a business’ ability to fight online, anonymous speech that may be libelous (ZL Technologies, Inc. v. Does, Glassdoor) though in the context of employee, not customer, reviews. The plaintiff found that it received very poor reviews on the job posting website Glassdoor. They complained about management, compensation and its work environment, making it that much harder for ZL to find job candidates.

photo - bad online reviewsWe are living in the age of the consumer review, whether you’re in the market for a laptop, car, plumber or lawyer. Many of us will make buying decisions, or at least narrow down the choices, by using reviews we find on social media and websites. It has become a powerful marketing tool for business, but it’s a doubled edged sword. Positive reviews can boost sales, negative reviews can slow them down.

Some businesses have taken protecting their online reputation to extremes by suing those posting bad reviews by claiming the person violated some kind of user/purchase agreement or committed libel or defamation.

A Florida based seller of weight loss supplements is the latest company drawing attention to its aggressive actions against bad reviews. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last month it filed a lawsuit against Roca Labs, Inc., for a number of reasons including making false claims about their products and that it threatened to enforce an invalid “gag clause” against those who posted negative reviews and testimonials online.

Roca told consumers posting negative reviews they violated a non-disparagement section of the “Terms and Conditions” they allegedly agreed to when they purchased the products. The FTC claims these provisions are not legally enforceable and subsequent warnings, threats and lawsuits filed against online reviewers were attempts to intimidate unhappy purchasers which unfairly barred them from sharing truthful, negative comments about Roca and its products.

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