Posting a negative review online could get you sued
The right to free speech aside, leaving a negative review online could leave you open to a lawsuit. It has to for many others.
- A Florida man faced $25,000 in legal fees after posting a negative review about a vet on Yelp.
- A New York woman was sued by her doctor for $1 million for posting negative online reviews.
- A man in Kansas was sued over a three-star Trip Advisor review of a theme park.
- A South Carolina woman was sued by a restaurant she claimed refused to honor a coupon.
“We’re seeing a rise in individuals being sued for speaking out online,” said Evan Mascagni, who works for the Public Participation Project, in an article that appeared on CBSNews.com.
Referred to as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), these legal actions are designed to intimidate and shut down critics. Some states like Florida have anti-SLAPP laws, but most haven’t been updated to cover online activity, leaving many consumers, bloggers and influencers in danger for speaking their minds.
The Public Participation Project, a nonprofit group that works to project consumers from SLAPP actions. The organization gives Florida a “C,” saying its law is adequate.
Here are some key facts to keep in mind before publishing a negative online review:
- The U.S. Congress passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which makes it illegal for companies to add clauses to their contracts banning customers from posting negative reviews or fining them if they do. However, many companies still include the clause.
- Post the truth and be prepared to back up your case. If you write “a false statement of fact” that could “harm the reputation of the plaintiff,” then you’re committing defamation. In essence, this will give someone cause to sue you.
- Make sure to express your thoughts as opinions. “I didn’t like…..”
- Avoid using terms like conned, scammed or robbed that make a company you’re reviewing to be perceived as criminals.
- Don’t write reviews while you’re angry.
- If you’re sued or threatened with a lawsuit, contact a lawyer immediately.
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