Bad service or faulty product? If you decide to write a review telling others be careful. More often than ever companies are suing for negative comments written about their business. A homeowner in Virginia posted a one star review on yelp of a contractor, she was then sued for $750,0000. Companies are able to sue for negative comments through multiple issues. these issues are copyright infringement, tortuous interference, product disparagement, defamation, and the right of publicity. All of these are related because they deal with the damaging of a reputation. Yes, you may have freedom of speech but there are laws against defamation as well. However you can put yourself out of harms way if you keep a cool head and keep in mind the information below.
Take a breath, or more if needed. The best thing before writing a review is to make sure you are calm and have a clear mind when writing a review. When going to write, only speak the truth of actual events, and be able to prove what exactly happened with evidence. Protect yourself by using opinions instead of fighting words. Let us say that a customer had terrible service from a business that cleans floors and carpets. The carpet that was cleaned suffers damage and the fibers keep coming out and it was not previously like that before. When he or she went to the company the would not give the money back, so he or she decides to write a review on this horrible experience.
Review 1, The Don’t:
Company carpet cleaner are a bunch of cheats, they took my money then ruined my carpet and instead of doing the right thing they blamed me on poor quality carpet (which it is not) and refused to give me my money back. DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY.
Review 2, The Do:
I was not happy with the service. I did not feel that the amount I paid for the cleaning was shown and did not like how they treated my carpet. Unfortunately I was unable to reach a resolution with the company and will not be hiring them again.
Stay away from accusations and stick with words like I, My, I thought, and I was. You are then no longer pointing blame at someone and defaming them but drawing from personal thoughts and experiences which is considered an opinion. However pointing blame as an opinion like I think so and so is a fraud cause he stole money, is considered defamation.
When it comes to copyright infringement just don't. You most likely will not be able to defend yourself when confronted with the copyright infringement. If the work is not your own or you did not pay for the license, have a written agreement from the original creator giving permission of use. If material is used accidentally or you are unaware of the copyright a DMCA take-down request may be sent to you, taking down the offending material as soon as possible is the best way to avoid or at least reduce the severity of charges. If an account has multiple copyright violations the host of the site will be forced to suspend or deactivate your account. For more information about DMCA and how to deal with a take-down request look into this link http://brainz.org/dmca-takedown-101/.
Next watch out for SLAPP lawsuits because they hurt. SLAPP lawsuits or otherwise known as strategic lawsuits against public participation. These suits are used for targeting people into being quiet about not the best services and the like. The lawsuits are extremely expensive and can financially destroy the defendants. Some business contracts have within its text that the client may not leave a negative or below average review of the services, warning of legal pursuit if the contract is violated. Sometimes these are well hidden or difficult to read and if you are are unsure of the policy ask what is in place in the review policy. Talking with the company and negotiating the contract is a possibility as well, but if they refuse and stand firm, look for other business elsewhere is recommended by experts. Laws are being put in place to fight against SLAPP suits but the issue is becoming more common with online buying and sites like Yelp coming into popular use.
Keeping ears and eyes open before accepting business with a company and be sure to read any contract thoroughly. Remember keep a cool head and keep any paper or evidence of the work done. Opinions are protected under freedom of speech but slandering and defamation is not. We hope this article was useful to you and will help in the future when writing reviews.