Some people believe and even stubbornly insist that review websites are there to educate consumers and to enhance our ability to make the right choice in choosing a reputable supplier, a builder, an estate agent or a holiday provider and they are dead wrong.
The truth is that the vast majority of those who operate review websites have clever systems that are aimed to benefit them financially from encouraging visitors to their website to write negative reviews. They often do this by wiping the floor with the reputation of good, honest and well established businesses across the UK.
It is only a matter of time before most of us find ourselves at the mercy of operators of review websites who will be crowning themselves as representatives of the people, the judges and the jury in our very public summary trial. Mystery visitors will tell the world that their “dream” holiday has turned into one big, fat disappointment. (Maybe even a nightmare).
Those business owners who have already suffered from defamatory bad reviews on the internet and who saw with their own eyes their good reputation being publically tarnished on the internet have also realised that at one point the telephone simply stop ringing. They have written letters upon letters to the operators of the review websites to ask/beg that they remove defamatory reviews or at least tell them us who wrote the reviews but they would agree to neither.
Are operators of review websites liable for defamation posted by anonymous users?
The simple answer is YES. The vast majority of them are liable to defamation. Their liability to you as someone who suffered defamation starts at least from the moment you notify them of the defamation. If they then choose to keep the defamatory review on their website, (normally on the strength of reassurances by the reviewer) their liability for defamation is almost equal that of the person who wrote the defamatory review. A big risk to take if you ask.
The website operator says that we can respond to defamatory reviews and put the record straight. Is it a good idea to respond to defamation on a review website?
Each time that you respond to a defamatory review, you make the review more visible on search results. Very often, the review either contains too many inaccuracies or you have no recollection of the incident complained of. So responding to a defamatory review on a review website is unlikely to make things better.
You don't have to respond if you don't want to and this does not change the liability of the website operator towards you.
So how come so many operators of review websites simply get away with publishing defamation?
They don't. Many remove the defamation after they receive proper communications from expert lawyers who point out to them their vulnerable legal position.
Often they have to agree to the removal of all the defamatory posts from their website and then to a fair process as a way to move forward.
The question is: when it comes to YOUR business, will you let profiteering website operators get away with it?
Or will you do something about it?
In less than one hour, we can ask you and your marketing/sales directors a few key questions, examine online reviews about your company and provide a very, very revealing analysis of all the options that are open to you to have reviews removed from the internet, advice you on how to strategies your dealings with online reviews and tips on how to make your telephone ringing back again.
Business owner after business owner tells us “I had no idea I could remove those darned reviews”.