Reading time: 3 minutes

As consumers, we frequently visit popular food and accommodation review websites, such as Urbanspoon, Taste and Trip Advisor. We resort to these sites both to read reviews and to write reviews. These websites are constantly receiving reviews about businesses on their website, and these reviews are not always positive. In fact, many of the reviews are of experiences which can reflect badly on the business owner and ultimately the business’ bottom line. This poses the question as to how defamation law applies, if at all, to authors of these reviews.

Can these businesses take action against the reviewer?

In short, under current Australian law, businesses with fewer than 10 employees may take action in defamation against the author of material posted on these online review websites.

When is a review defamatory?

Consumers of products or services that go out of their way to publish harmful or negative reviews with the purpose of damaging a business may find themselves liable to pay huge penalties. Each case will be different and will depend on the facts.

How do you prove defamation?

It needs to be shown that the review did not reflect the true opinion of its author, but rather was aimed at damaging the reputation of the business. In other words, it must be shown that there existed some malice in writing the review, with the purpose of deterring others from using the service or buying the products.

In New South Wales, for example, a well-known food critic was made to pay $600,000 because of a restaurant review. Although the review appeared in a major print media outlet and not in the online space, it provides food for thought on the kinds of civil penalties those found liable could end up paying.

What to consider when writing an online review?

There are a number of important things to remember when writing an online review about a business:

  • The review is being made available to the world at large, the wording of which should be carefully considered;
  • Make sure it is not published for some hidden agenda;
  • It must accurately reflect the real experience of its author, although this does not mean that comedic relief and expression must be avoided;
  • The consequences, as illustrated above, can be very expensive, depending on the amount of damage the defamed business can prove as a result of the review.

Conclusion

Are you operating a business that has recently been reviewed?

Was this review completely false?

Has your business suffered as a result?

If, after requesting the removal of the review, you have no luck resolving the matter, you should seek legal advice from a business lawyer.

For those reviews that are true and reflect badly on the business, the best advice we could give is to take the criticism on board and take steps to rectify whatever shortcomings the reviewer complained about. If you’d like a free quote for advice, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755.

 

Webinars

Construction Contract Essentials

Thursday 12 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Understand how construction contracts are drafted and how to protect your construction business.
Register Now

Startup 101: Understanding Cap Tables and ESOPs

Thursday 19 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Cap tables and employee share option plans are essential for fast-growing startups. Learn more with this free webinar.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. From just $119 per week, get all your contracts sorted, trade marks registered and questions answered by experienced business lawyers.

Learn more about LVConnect

Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

  • 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation – Finalist – Australasian Law Awards 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice – Winner – Australasian Lawyer 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • Most Innovative Law Firm - 2019 Australasian Lawyer 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer