Online reviews about the way your business dealt with a client or provided a service are now a key part of marketing strategy. Great when the feedback is positive – but hugely damaging when negative comments are posted that might be seen by thousands of potential customers.
Nath Solicitors in London provides specialist advice on online defamation and review management. Here we look at the best ways to deal with negative comments when they are published. We consider primarily negative reviews and comments in a commercial context but the approach we describe applies equally to negative, defamatory or intrusive material of a more personal nature, including online harassment.
If you are able to identify them, there’s nothing to stop you contacting the poster of the negative material directly. But we would always advise caution when doing so. Understandably, negative comments about a business you have invested your time, money and energy in building up are upsetting – particularly if as far as you’re concerned there’s no justification for them. Intervening immediately without objectively considering what you want to achieve by contacting a disgruntled client directly risks escalating a situation that might be easier to resolve thank you think.
In our experience a useful rule of thumb when faced with publication of commercially damaging comments is to consult a solicitor as soon as you become aware of the material. At Nath Solicitors our review management solicitors will help you assess the likely damage a negative comment might cause your business. The fallout may not be as bad as you fear. Responding aggressively without considering fully how this might reflect on your business can do more harm than good.
In addition the person who has posted the objectionable material might not have the ability to remove it even if they wish to. Effective action might mean approaching the website operator, the webhost or even a search engine like Google.
In extreme cases, for example if the material posted is defamatory, you might need to at least threaten court action. But we find that a robustly worded letter setting out your position clearly in most cases results in the removal of the offending material. The courts do have significant powers to deal with the increasing problem of unjustified reviews that are defamatory – the 2021 case of Summerfield Brown involving a review of a firm of solicitors is a good example of this. There the court took action against the poster when the solicitors were able to demonstrate financial loss resulting from a review containing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.
Of course any court action must only be embarked upon when a clear strategy has been worked out in advance. This usually involves a delicate weighing up of the benefits of a successful outcome against the possibility of negative publicity resulting from the legal action.
If your business has been the subject of negative online comment, think carefully before you take action. As we’ve said, clear legal advice from a solicitor experienced in this area of law will often result in a quick, cost-effective resolution of the issue. For more information contact our director Shubha Nath at Nath Solicitors on 44 (0) 203 983 8278 or contact the firm online.
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