Bogus Online Reviews: The Case of the Competitor

competitor online trade libel
What are your legal options if a competitor posts a bad review of your business on a consumer review website?

The First Amendment serves up a whole lot of freedom, so defamation cases aren’t the easiest to win. The exception? When plaintiffs can prove that their competitors are behind the disparaging reviews.

Online Trade Libel Lawsuits Over Internet Consumer Reviews Are On The Rise

I’m sure you’ve read the memo by now, but if not: Online trade libel lawsuits are on the rise thanks to consumer review websites like Yelp, Ripoff Report and TripAdvisor.

Due to the rise in cases, many people are asking questions like: “Are these lawsuits fair?” and “Don’t First Amendment protections render most Internet defamation cases moot?” The answers: Yes and no.

The Difference Between Free Speech and Defamation / Libel

Sure, it’s 100% legal, for you, me and everyone we know, to shout-type negative opinions online. But what isn’t legal is publicly lying about a business or person. Doing so is considered defamatory, and people who engage in the practice can be successfully sued by the businesses they besmirch.

Free speech rights are broad, and opinions aren’t usually considered statements of fact.

What If My Competitor Is The Person Posting A Bad Review?

Oftentimes, though, online disparagement isn’t the work of actual customers, but instead the nasty machinations of a competitor.

You read that right: to gain market advantage, some business owners and marketers will post fake, negative testimonials about competitors’ products or services. Sometimes marketers are paid to write disparaging fake reviews; other times business owners convince friends to act as “Salieris of Defamation.” Either way, it’s an underhanded trick that has cost thousands of companies millions of dollars over the past decade.

If You Can Prove A Competitor Is Behind A Bad Review, Your Chances Of Winning An Online Trade Libel Lawsuit Skyrocket

The great news: it’s much easier to win a trade libel lawsuit if you can prove a competitor is the puppet master behind a bad online review. If you suspect a competitor is behind a spate of negative press targeting your business – you probably have the makings of an excellent defamation lawsuit.

Contact An Online Trade Libel Lawyer

Fake, defamatory consumer reviews is unfair competition at its worst. Contact Kelly / Warner if you’re the target of an online trade libel attack. We’ve won hundreds of Internet business defamation cases.

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