Reputation Management: Can I Sue Someone for Leaving a Bad Yelp Review?
For a small business, Yelp reviews can have a huge impact on your local reputation. In a world where everything is sociable and shareable, many people look to Yelp to find out information about the quality of small businesses in their neighborhood.
For those that have a bevy of positive reviews, this can build confidence among consumers and lead to an abundance of new sales. However, for a business that has bad reviews on Yelp, the results can be disastrous for their reputation.
When small business owners see that a person has left a negative review on Yelp, a variety of different emotions are likely going to run through their minds. Thoughts that range from “That person doesn’t know what they’re talking about” to “It must be one of my competitors trying to slander my company” — they are all likely.
As your blood starts to boil and you only get more angry, it’s also likely that you consider what sort of legal action you can take against the person who has left a negative review.
One of the first reactions is to take the reviewer to court and sue them for leaving a bad Yelp review.
Cases like this are popping up all over America, with mixed results for both business owners and reviewers. Here is a look into whether a business can sue someone for leaving a bad review on Yelp, and what is needed on behalf of each party to stay legally protected.
Reviewer Is Protected Under the First Amendment
It’s important to understand that, under the First Amendment, a customer does have the right to leave a review based on his or her experience at a particular business. The First Amendment protects citizens and allows them to speak freely, which can include both positive and negative experiences.
While the First Amendment does ensure free speech, it doesn’t prevent false or untruthful comments that hurt a company’s reputation. This means that the comments made by a reviewer on Yelp must be proven as truthful or honest, based off their experience with a particular business.
For example, in the Arizona case above, a woman went online to share her experience with a vehicle repair company. Kendra McConnell claimed that after leaving her Jeep with Premier Coach Works in El Mirage, they failed to do an adequate job of repairing her vehicle. In her review, she stated that the company failed to return phone calls, overcharged for services and did not properly repair the vehicle as promised.
This sort of situation can certainly be a challenge for both parties. For the consumers, they feel as if they’ve been cheated and have the right to leave a review based on their experience. But for Premier Coach Works, the company feels victimized by the impact that a negative Yelp review can have on its business.
Business Must Provide the Burden of Proof
In deciding whether a company can sue reviewers for their negative comments online, it comes down to the ability of that company to prove the statements made were untrue. For example, in the Premier Coach Works case, it was up to the company to prove that McConnell was not being factual in the comments she made.
As a consumer, knowing that you can be taken advantage of by a company can be a scary thought. Luckily, we now live in a time in which nearly everything can be recorded and used as justification for improper services. For example, a customer can use emails, text messages and legal tender to prove the commitments were not upheld by the company they used.
If the evidence proves that the comments on Yelp were factual and honest, there are no grounds for the reviewer to have to remove the post. In addition, the business cannot sue the reviewer for those comments.
While businesses may hear this and think they are now at the mercy of their customers, this isn’t necessarily the case. Just as consumers can use evidence to argue their reasoning for a negative review, the company can use the same information to defend the reputation of their business. In the event that the case moves to a courtroom, the same information can be used to persuade a judge to have the review on Yelp removed if the post is not truthful.
Both Parties Can Come to an Agreement
Yelp was created with the intention of being a platform on which consumers could state their insight and experiences with local businesses. The truth is that this helps to protect consumers, and it also holds businesses to a higher standard to ensure that they’re providing the best service possible to their customers.
Because of the damage that negative Yelp reviews can cause, however, there is now concern for customers making untruthful comments about their experiences at a given business.
In the case of McConnell and Premier Coach Works, the two sides came to an agreement outside of court. In many instances, this could be what ideally occurs for businesses and Yelp reviewers.
If you want to prevent the headache that comes from a negative Yelp review, there is a simple solution: Make sure you give great service to every customer who walks through the door. However, if you’ve done all you can and you still feel you’re receiving unjustified negative reviews on Yelp, it’s important to know that your business is protected.
Evidence is everything when it comes to these sorts of cases on Yelp. So whether you are a business or a customer, make sure you are prepared to defend yourself and the actions you take online.
Yelp can play a vital role with a business because it allows people to rate them. One angry customer can harm your business so you should let each customer know that if they have a problem to please come see them before they post a bad review about the business. If you don’t do this then you can expect a bad review and although you may want to sue them just ignore them not everybody will listen to them. I believe in checking a business for myself because I know some people’s opinions are made from anger.
Hi Gail, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the importance of Yelp reviews for businesses. You’re absolutely right that one negative review can have a significant impact on a business, which is why it’s important to handle any customer complaints or issues promptly and professionally. As you mentioned, it’s a good idea to let customers know that if they have any concerns or complaints, they should bring them to your attention before leaving a negative review. This gives you the opportunity to address the issue and potentially turn the situation around before it escalates.
However, it’s important to note that not all negative reviews can be avoided, and it’s not always possible to please every customer. In those cases, it’s important to respond to the review calmly and professionally, acknowledging the customer’s concerns and offering a solution if possible. It’s also a good practice to encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on Yelp, as this can help offset any negative reviews and improve your overall rating.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, and I hope this information is helpful to you!
Thank you for the information! I am interested to know more about protections against Yelp reviews. I once had a disgruntled employee who was going around leaving falsified reviews on multiple platforms. After researching endless resources, I learned the best thing to do was address the allegations in the comment section in the friendliest manner as possible.
I figured this would be a good way to explain our side of the issues in detail while calling out his lies. It is upsetting to get a bad review, but the best thing you can do is respond in a mature manner.
April, thanks for sharing your experience with Yelp reviews. I’m sorry to hear that you had to deal with falsified reviews from a disgruntled employee, that can be very frustrating for any business owner. In terms of protections against Yelp reviews, there are some policies in place to prevent false or defamatory reviews. For example, Yelp has algorithms in place to detect and remove fake reviews, and they also allow businesses to flag reviews that violate their content guidelines.
It’s important to note that it’s generally not possible to completely remove negative reviews, even if they are false or defamatory. However, as you mentioned, responding to the review in a professional and friendly manner can be an effective way to address the allegations and provide your side of the story.
Yelp for me is a great platform where clients or consumers can air out their grievances regarding a company or service provider. From an entrepreneur’s standpoint its kinda scary to read nasty comments coming from dissatisfied customers. But instead of sulking and thinking about negative publicity I think that the owner and staff should take this as a learning experience. The first thing to do is investigate if the comments are valid or not. Second it is a must to reach out to the clients through a phone call or personal visit right away. Third is to find ways on how to satisfy the client, make amends and apologize if necessary.
Clients in general have high expectations over things because they pay for it and it would not be fair to them if businesses ignore their complaints or requests. They have very right to complain but not to the extent that I would ruin a business. As an entrepreneur I know that I have to work hard to deliver excellent customer service all the time. As a consumer I must be treated fairly because I know my rights.
Thank you for sharing your perspective on Yelp reviews, Leika. You’re absolutely right that negative reviews can be scary for business owners, but they can also be an opportunity for learning and improvement. It’s important for businesses to investigate and address any valid complaints or grievances from customers. Taking the time to reach out to the customer and find a solution can not only help improve the customer’s experience but also show other potential customers that the business values their satisfaction. At the same time, it’s important for customers to be fair in their complaints and not make false or exaggerated claims that can harm a business’s reputation. As you mentioned, there needs to be a balance between a customer’s expectations and a business’s ability to deliver excellent customer service.
When it comes to reviews your on a tricky slope. You don’t wanna be the next Amy’s Baking Company (a little ref for all those Kitchen Nightmares fans) and have too big of an ego to admit when you’ve made a mistake. On the other hand of course you don’t want to let slander pass. The first step I think is to make sure you’ve read up on federal and state slander laws. If you can prove it’s false, don’t let it go. If you can’t do your best to make it up to the consumer. We all just want to feel like you’re listening.
You’re absolutely right, Annabel! Businesses need to find a balance between admitting mistakes and not letting slander pass. Understanding federal and state slander laws is definitely a good first step for businesses to take. If a review is false and damaging to the business’s reputation, it’s important to take action to address it. On the other hand, if the review is valid, businesses should take responsibility and work to make it up to the consumer.
In any case, actively listening to customers and their feedback can go a long way in building trust and loyalty.
I know that many businesses want to defend their precious business from bad reviews, but they are inevitable. We all have to agree that we cannot please everyone and to take those comments with a grain of salt. If there is a genuine concern that needs to be addressed then yes, by all means, reach out to that customer and try to make it better. It also helps to comment back to the customer’s post by telling them that you are willing to accommodate them and see if they can agree to speak with you about making the problem right.
This post caught my eye because I am an avid yelp reviewer and I am one of the many people that relies on yelp to help in making decisions regarding various businesses. I have seen some of the awful reviews left by distraught customers, some of which I ignored and found to be invalid when visiting establishments. I can understand a business owner wanting to sue a customer, however I think the owner should consider who the customer interacted with during their visit and maybe inquire to get details. I don’t know if mediation is possible through yelp, but if lawsuits are rising, then it’s definitely something they should consider.
Nicole, thank you for sharing your perspective as an avid Yelp reviewer. It’s important to acknowledge that not all negative reviews are valid, and it’s understandable that business owners may want to protect their reputation from false claims. However, it’s also crucial to handle these situations with care and not immediately resort to legal action. Inquiring about the details of the customer’s interaction with the business and addressing their concerns can often lead to a resolution without escalating the situation. As for mediation through Yelp, while it may not be a formal option, responding to the review and offering to address the issue can often lead to a positive outcome.
That’s a great point, Jon. It’s important for businesses to take bad reviews with a grain of salt and not take them too personally. It’s also important to address genuine concerns and try to make things right with the customer. Responding to the customer’s post and offering to accommodate them can show that the business is willing to listen and make things right.