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Amazon review, Reddit post have consumer in hot water

With the advent of online communication, marketing for businesses has changed drastically. Although word of mouth isn’t anything new, the ability to write a review online has taken even more control out of the hands of a business or prospective business owner. The saying may go that “any PR is good PR,” but any entrepreneur just starting or established business owner would probably say that it isn’t necessarily true.

A business can take down bad reviews on their own website, but there is little that they can do about ones that are on popular websites, like Yelp, or when terms of use, like those on Amazon, set restrictions against doing so. What about when those reviews aren’t just based on a personal opinion? What recourse does a company have when those reviews are libelous or defamatory?

The truth is that a company does have legal relief options in cases in which another company or individual publishes a statement that is not only false, but also damaging to the business’s reputation. In the past, courts have sided in favor of businesses that were on the receiving end of a libelous review.

A court in Virginia held in 2012 that a woman’s Yelp review stating that a contractor had not only given bad service but had stolen her jewelry was defamatory. A prior ruling in 2006 resulted in an $11.3 million award for statements that were made about another woman on an online message board.

The Communications Decency Act protects websites, like Amazon, from being named in a lawsuit concerning a defamatory or libelous review, but that same protection doesn’t extend to the person who posted the review. Just recently, a business sent a cease and desist letter to an Amazon reviewer who continued to make statements about the letter and the incident on Reddit.

This is the type of issue that a business in New York should consult with an attorney about, even if the reviewer uploads their post in Manhattan, California or Florida.

Source: National Journal, “This Guy May Get Sued Over An Amazon Review,” Matt Vasilogambros, May 7, 2014

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