Google business reviews and defamation

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In this connected world, businesses rely now more than ever on various social media reviews and Google business reviews that play an important part of many businesses marketing plans.

A good review can increase sales and drive profit. A negative review can have catastrophic consequences even leading to the business folding.

Google has been criticised around the globe for not taking down these reviews when they have been shown to be wrong.

For a review to be defamatory it must be:

  1. a false and dishonest review of the customer or the clients experience, causing reputational harm to the business; and
  2. be made about an individual, a non-for-profit or a corporation with less than 10 employees.

In an interesting case, a software engineer posted a false review about a criminal law firm in Queensland.

Chris and Brendan Nyst (Nysts), the partners of the law firm Nyst Legal instituted defamation proceedings against the software engineer Mr Mayer posted a one star rating despite having never been a client of the firm.

The Nysts requested Mr Mayer and Google to remove the rating but neither did.

Apparently Mr Mayer gave the rating based on the fact the firm had acted for someone who threatened to sue a friend.

Interestingly in his defence he said his review was based on his “knowledge of legal work performed by the business”.

The Nysts claimed that the review embarrassed, humiliated, hurt and distressed them and caused damage to their law firm.

The review did not contain any comments just the one star. They alleged the one star rating was defamatory because it implied, they “provide poor service and should be avoided, are unprofessional, inept and the quality of work they produce is poor”.

The Nysts sought $300,000 in damages but the matter never reached a trial.

The Nysts discontinued the proceedings after reaching a secret settlement with Google, which finally saw the review taken down.

There are a lot of companies who assist businesses in having review removed from search engines such as Google, but if that is not effective you may well have to consider whether the review is defamatory and take action.

How can FC Lawyers help with Google business reviews and defamation?

Our experienced litigation team has been assisting clients for over 25 years with defamation related reviews and comments published online.

Contact our team today to discuss any legal issues you may have with Google business reviews and defamation.

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