Recent studies have found that 88% of customers have been influenced by an online customer service review and that almost half of job seekers had researched companies on GlassDoor, an online company review site. If these reviews are negative (and particularly false), however, they can have a lasting negative impact on your business.
In some cases, businesses may have a claim for defamation against individuals who post false negative reviews online. Ohio courts have defined defamation as follows:
“Defamation is the publication or communication of a false statement of fact that injures someone by adversely affecting the person’s (1) reputation, (2) business, or (3) position by exposure to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, shame, or disgrace. The essential elements of a claim for defamation are that (1) the defendant made a false statement; (2) that false statement was defamatory in the sense that it reflected unfavorably on the plaintiff’s character or injured his trade or business; (3) the statement was published or communicated; and (4) the defendant acted with the necessary degree of fault.” Fuchs v. Scripps Howard Broad. Co., 170 Ohio App. 3d 679.
The Columbus Dispatch recently reported on a lawsuit between a tenant accused of making defamatory comments that injured the landlord’s business.
[James] Raney was a tenant at the Meridian Apartments in the Fifth by Northwest neighborhood of Columbus, then owned by Connor Group. While living there, he commented online about what he saw as conditions that fell short of the “luxury” described in marketing materials.
He moved out the complex but continued blogging about Connor Group.
Connor Group said Raney’s claims were false and harmful to the company, while Raney and his attorney argued that the online postings were constitutionally-protected opinion.
As in this case, the most difficult questions are often: 1) Were the negative statements presented as fact or opinion? and 2) Did the statements result in actual damages to the business?
If your business has been adversely affected by negative online reviews, please contact our firm to discuss the best course of action.