Social media is great "word of mouth" advertising when
things go right. It can also be a nightmare in damage control when
things go wrong. Sometimes the unsatisfied customer just lets it
rip fairly or unfairly.
The facts of the alleged unsatisfactory customer service were
not unusual. The customer had purchased a dining room table.
It was damaged. There were attempts to fix it. The company offered
to rebuild the table. The customer wanted a refund. When the
customer didn't get the refund, the customer's daughter
began an email campaign.
The daughter e-mailed 38 of her contacts using her work address.
She inserted a logo that looked like the retailer's and asked
that the recipients to forward the email along to others. The email
stated that the company was "an untrustworthy company and I
strongly advise you to think twice before putting your trust and
money in their hands!" and "We are all consumers and
deserve to be made aware of deceitful companies who do not honour
their Consumer's Guarantee. BUYERS BEWARE!"
The Ontario court concluded that the daughter had gone too far
and awarded the retailer Cdn. $15,000. E-mailing 38 people and
asking them to pass it along constituted publication. Accusing the
company of being untrustworthy and deceitful would clearly affect
its reputation, character and business. The defence of fair comment
was not available. The defamatory statements were not based on fact
(at least not all of the available facts) and, in any event, the
statements were based on malice. She openly stated that she wanted
Although there are other means for managing a company's
reputation, this recent case suggests that courts will take
seriously an action in defamation as a last resort for dealing with
a customer who goes too far.
About Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC)
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