Online Reviews-Could Yours Land You in Court?


One thing I love about the connected world we live in today is the availability of product and service reviews.  Before many purchases in product segments I do not often shop or before booking a vacation, I research…and then I research some more.  I check the reviews on the website where the product is being sold and then I use search engines to find other consumer reviews.  If most reviews are positive and I feel the product will be of value and quality I make the purchase.  If reviews are overwhelmingly bad, I move on.

This is one of the major advantages I have come to find with the internet and the quick accessibility of a plethora of information.  This kind of word of mouth can be a powerful tool for a brand.  It can also be a crippling tool when an angry consumer sounds off about their experience.

Recently, some companies have been fighting back and filing law suits against those with false or exaggerated claims.  For example, there has been a lawsuit against a customer who complained of bedbugs in a Trip Adviser consumer review.  I feel it is important to note that the hotel acknowledges the customer came down and complained of bedbugs.   Another woman near Washington D.C. is being sued for negative reviews she gave a contractor claiming they did a horrible job, she was billed for work that was not completed and jewelry went missing while the contractors were there.  The contractor is suing noting these are false claims that sent other potential customers running.

Lawsuits such as the aforementioned lead me to question the ramifications these types of suites will have on consumer reviews.  Word of mouth was a valuable tool long before social media and various other digital platforms arose.  Customers could say whatever they pleased about a brand and their experience with no ramifications.  Even now, consumers tell their friends and take to internet to sound off about the good, the bad and the ugly.  However, as more lawsuits arise and negative reviews are in the spotlight, will consumers be wary of posting their real opinions and experiences online?  Will those with bad experiences have to avoid posting details that may warn other consumers?  Or should companies do more to ensure an angry customer is compensated and the issue is resolved before they have the chance to give a terrible review?

While companies are not jumping out of their seats and suing every person that gives them a bad review, this trend is rising and new laws, restrictions and disclaimers are being discussed and developed to protect consumers as well as businesses.

So how can you protect yourself as a consumer?  Only present facts and opinions that can be proven.  Refrain from getting overly emotional and exaggerating any truths.  Lastly, if the company contacts you and asks you to take down your review, work with them and come to a compromise-maybe a revised, less emotional review and a coupon.

If you work for a company that has received a review that may impact your business negatively, contact your PR person/firm rather than a team of lawyers.  Suing your customer could look much worse than letting your PR team rectify the situation.

Want to learn more?

Online Reviewers Beware: You Can Get Sued

Handling Haters: How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

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