Could Leaving a Negative Review Online Get you in Hot Water?

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From what I’ve seen a major search engine starting with the letter G seems to favor negative reviews. Perhaps because they want to keep things authentic. Of course, anyone that’s doing anything is going to get negative criticism at some point. But when does a good review cross the line?

I’ve recommended that small businesses have a profile and watch feedback from customers on Yelp (read my tips on using Yelp).

Lawsuits A’hoy!

There was a blog post about Yelp and a pending lawsuit against someone who left a negative review. Did you know that if you call a business dishonest they could sue you? That’s what happened when someone left this feedback for a local chiropractor on Yelp.

Here’s what he wrote:

I don’t think good business means charging people whatever you feel like hoping they’ll pay without a fuss. Especially considering that I found a much better, honest chiropractor.

The chiropractor billed this guy’s insurance company four times what was quoted for two office visits in 2006. This is common practice from what I’ve seen. The chiropractor said he charged more for the extra time and effort his office spends dealing with the insurers. The case was recently settled out of court.

While you can always state your opinion, that’s protected speech, be careful not to represent it as a fact. Misrepresenting the truth could lead to libel charges. Now, from a business perspective a lawsuit is just about the worst possible thing you could do. When businesses do things like this it turns upset customers into angry evangelists who will stop at nothing to tell everyone how much they dislike your company.

Negative Comments on Your Site

A blogger, Carl Natale, suggests not deleting or restricting comments that are critical of your business. The commenter can get angry and start a campaign to smear you on other sites. At least by responding you can keep criticism on your site and respond directly.

Carl makes another good point. If you keep the negativity on your site you will be the first to read and be able to respond to it. Hopefully you can contain it – after all you asked for feedback.

Comments


AJ Wilcox

That’s awesome, Janet! Thanks for the followup from the last post. I absolutely hate to see companies respond to customers with lawsuits. It’s time to think past the law, and consider permanent consequences.

Shelly

This is a good resource for people to utilize in their local business strategy.
thanks
Shelly

mae

Thanks for the article, Janet. I had no idea that businesses could sue you for something you write on their website. I thought free speech was still around, but I guess when you’re working online not everything goes. It’s too bad that guy thought his chiropractor was not honest with him though.

kcooke@orangesoda.com

Good thing my Mom always taught me to play nice (and that no one can read my thoughts!). Growing up in a large suburban metro in TX, I learned the Southern strong woman mentality: we say what we mean, and we mean what we say, and we usually sound sweet about it. (Can’t you jus’ hear that with a Southern drawl in your head?)

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