Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back

Know The Law: Addressing Unfair Online Reviews

Written by: Jeremy T. Walker

Q. Recently my small business has been tarnished by a series of unfair reviews posted online by anonymous “reviewers.” Do I have legal recourse?

A. You describe a problem that businesses increasingly are facing as the internet becomes entrenched as the open marketplace. Virtually anyone who has access to a computer can attack a business by posting negative reviews – often reviews that are unfair, and in some cases, entirely untrue.

Indeed, the issue you face goes beyond jilted consumers posting about their bad experiences. Business competitors and disgruntled former employees have deliberately posted a series of negative reviews, and the impact can be immediate and disastrous, particularly for a small business like yours that presumably relies heavily on word of mouth. For better or for worse, reviews by purported consumers on the internet are popular, and often are afforded instant credibility by other consumers.

When your business is faced with a cyber smearing campaign, you may have legal recourse, as more courts are paying attention to the damages being incurred by defamatory postings. Earlier this year, a software developed obtained a verdict of $1.5 million against a medical doctor who made false posts about the services provided by the developer.  Much attention currently is being paid to a recent $750,000 lawsuit brought by a Virginia contractor against a homeowner who posted scathing reviews on the popular website Yelp.

Depending on the facts of your case, you may have legal recourse, but navigating through the legal hurdles can be tricky. For one, free speech protections allow consumers to post their honest opinions online. If, however, someone submitted a post that goes beyond opinion and makes factual assertions that are untrue, and those untrue statements caused damage to your business, you may be entitled to relief.

But from whom do you seek recourse? Is it the online site where the post is made – sites such as Yelp, Tripadvisor, or Angie’s List where consumers often flock to post their gripes? Generally speaking, the answer is no, because the Federal Communications Decency Act provides significant immunity to these online sites, as they are akin to bulletin boards that simply host the postings rather than actually write them. Most often, damaged businesses must seek recourse from the author of the defamatory post. This can be challenging for various reasons, and before taking legal action, you should seek legal counsel regarding the costs versus likely benefits of litigation.

Jeremy can be reached at [email protected].

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.

We invite your questions of business law. Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to:  Know the Law, The McLane Law Firm, P.O. Box 888, Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to [email protected].  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.

Integrity and trust

At McLane Middleton we establish and maintain long-standing relationships with our clients to help us better achieve their unique goals over time. This approach to building trust requires that our esteemed lawyers and professionals use their broad, in-depth knowledge and work together with integrity to ascertain sound resolutions to legal matters for their clients.

Strength in numbers

McLane Middleton is made up of more than 105 attorneys who represent a broad range of clients throughout the region, delivering customized solutions. As a firm we are recognized as having the highest legal ability rating. The firm is rated Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell and is recognized as one of the nation's leading law firms in Chambers USA. Our attorneys are distinguished leaders in their respective practice areas.

Meet Our People

Commitment and collaboration

McLane Middleton's versatile group of attorneys and paralegals become trusted authorities on each case through collaboration. We work with our clients to learn their individual needs first and foremost and, together, we develop comprehensive solutions to their specific legal matters. This approach helps us exceed our clients' expectations efficiently and effectively, client by client, case by case.

Practice Areas

A history of excellence

McLane Middleton was established in 1919 in New Hampshire, and has five offices across two states. However, deep historical roots don't allow you to become innate. Our firm is organized, technological, and knowledgeable. Our history means we are recognized. But our reputation is built on the highest quality of service and experience in very specific areas of law.

The Firm

Intelligence paired with action

Our team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance their professional development and put key learnings to action. The pursuit of further insight guides us to volunteer service opportunities, speaking engagements, and teaching roles. Our lawyers are sought after thought leaders across their industries, and recipients of leadership awards throughout the region.