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Dealing With Negative Online Reviews of Your Business

We know you’ve worked hard to build your small business legacy. Nothing is more frustrating than negative online reviews, particularly if you feel they are unjustified or have been posted in bad faith. There are several steps that you can take to prevent your business’s reputation from being damaged by unfavorable reviews or trade libel.

Respond Promptly and Professionally

More and more potential customers are turning to internet review sites like Yelp or Google My Business when they are making decisions about which businesses to patronize. If a dissatisfied customer has left a bad review of your business, you can act to mitigate its effects. Try not to respond defensively, and don’t just ignore the bad review. Instead, respond to the user’s negative review by posting a reply on the review site apologizing for their bad experience while offering to take steps to resolve the issue. Invite them to call or email you so that future communications can be private.

Encourage Happy Customers to Leave Positive Reviews

If your business is working hard to provide a high-quality product or service, then it is likely most of your customers will have a positive experience. A negative review is less likely to damage your business’s reputation if it is surrounded by dozens of positive reviews. Give customers the opportunity to post reviews by including links to review sites in your business’s emails and on your Facebook page and website.

Inform Yourself About Trade Libel

Trade libel is a type of legal injury similar to defamation. It involves the use of false and disparaging statements against a business regarding the quality of its goods or services which results in pecuniary harm. In other words, it is when a person or company spreads negative and false claims against a business that causes financial damage. Unlike a defamation suit, trade libel is specific to businesses. 

Trade libel laws differ from state to state, but there are a few characteristics that remain relatively consistent across state lines:

  1. The statement must be false. If a competitor says things that are factually correct, but negative about your business, you will not succeed in a trade libel suit. Additionally, if the statements are merely an opinion or for the purposes of poking fun at another, it may not succeed in court.
  2. The statements must be published. In most instances, this publication occurs through spoken or written language. 
  3. The statements must have caused you financial harm. This final element is often the most difficult to prove. It is not sufficient to merely prove that false comments were spoken. If you pursue a trade libel suit, you must be able to show that the statements caused you to lose money.

Proving Harm

When asserting a claim for trade libel, proving that your company suffered financial loss as a direct result of another’s false statements is not as easy as you would imagine. However, one common way to depict this harm is to show that you have lost business. Clearly identifying changes in the business income that correlate directly to the publication of the statement can often serve as evidence to establish that your business has been harmed. 

Avoiding Lawsuits Against Your Company

An additional area of concern for a small business owner is ensuring that your company does not become the offending party. In many instances, trade libel suits can arise from poorly managed marketing practices and ineffective or non-existent social media policies.

Schedule an Appointment

If you believe that you may have a claim for trade libel or want to make sure your business does not become a defendant in such a suit, make an appointment for a free consultation. We can walk you through the process of protecting your business’s name and reputation. Call us today to set up a meeting at (402) 979-6077. 

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