A woman hired a contractor to do some work on her home and ended up complaining about his work on Yelp and Angie’s list. Her complaints included having jewelry stolen, damage done to the house and charging for work that wasn’t completed. The contractor sued the woman for $750,000 claiming that she had caused already $300,000 in lost business.
Court Initially Squelched Women’s Online Voice
A Fairfax Virginia judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring the woman to removed portions of the negative review and also barring her from posting other reviews on additional review websites. Last week, an appellate court over-ruled the lower court in favor of the woman and her right to her opinions – at least for now.
How to Keep These Matters Out of Court
I can’t see any value in a small business hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit for defamation in these matters. First, there is the cost and aggravation of going to court. Second, it makes the issues you have with your customers very public and re-enforces the notion that where there is smoke there is fire. Third, there are remedies short of court – reporting abuse to Yelp or other review websites or simply responding quickly, politely and factually to negative reviews.
In the new social media world, every business needs to employ a strategy for handling negative reviews on social media websites. There is no reason for taking defensive, rash and counterproductive action when faced with a bad review. In the past, this was the kind of thing that happened by word of mouth where it was very hard to combat but impacted fewer people. Now its possible that 50% of the people who find your business will learn about negative comments or reviews. A quick glance at the Yelp review for your favorite restaurant will reveal that bad reviews are pervasive and need to be considered part of doing business.