A Melbourne dentist is suing a patient for defamation
over an online review. Mr Patient let loose a low star rating and a
personal attack against Mr Dentist, apparently following a highly
priced quote for a filling.
Responding to a bad review is tricky. When to ignore? When to
respond politely? When to go completely legal at them?
The right approach requires a careful blend of PR strategy and
legal advice. You'd generally only favour a legal approach in a
pretty serious case. But those cases do exist. Here are our top 5
points to consider when you get a negative review.
Where is the review posted? Most review platforms will take
down reviews that violate the platform guidelines. Personal
insults, vulgarities, hate speech or threats might be candidates
Is the review about a business or an individual? Individuals
and small businesses (fewer than 10 employees) can claim for
defamation. Big businesses can't, although in some cases they
might have other options.
What does the review actually say? Many negative reviews would
be defensible against a defamation claim. Truth and honest opinion
defences could apply, as could others.
How serious is the defamation? This is an important one. The
risk with legal action is that you end up drawing more attention to
the negative review, especially if there is press coverage. Look at
Mr Dentist; now everyone who reads the Age knows he got a bad
review. And suing a customer isn't always a great look,
Can you identify the individual who posted the review? Platform
owners generally won't share user details without a court
order. Obtaining a court order for disclosure is a possibility, but
it can be a pretty expensive exercise. Suing the review platform
might also be an option if they won't remove a defamatory post.
But they'll generally put up a decent fight because negative
posts are a big part of their business model. A strong and
well-resourced defence will increase the time, expense and risk of
So where does that leave you? Figure out all your options and
weigh them up carefully. Escalating quickly to legal action might
not ultimately leave you in a better position.
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