Online Reviews – Can you Be Held Liable for Negative Comments?

March 31, 2022, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Online review sites like Yelp and social media sites like Facebook, or Google are all filled with comments about the business. The positive ones are coveted by companies, the negative ones aren’t. Consumers often read reviews to decide where to eat, shop, find a contractor, or visit a dentist. These reviews can make or break a business. Often, they are a fair assessment of one individual’s experience at a point in time. Sometimes they are nothing short of vitriolic rubbish.

So, what happens when someone leaves a terrible review? Some sites allow them to be appealed, hidden or deleted, but usually, it remains in place for everyone to see, and anyone to find. Can you be sued if you leave a negative review? The short answer is ‘yes’.

Even if your bad review is a fair assessment of the service or product you may be sued for defamation. In Ontario, defamation laws have not changed significantly since the internet began to be used for reviews. Defamation is presumed to have occurred if it is proved. What that means is that regardless of any cost or suffering, if the statement is proven to be defamatory then the business is presumed to have made their case for defamation and damages are assessed.

To take a simple example, if you had poor service and posted it about it you may be sued and may be required to pay damages. This is not fair, however, defamation laws exist to protect a business from loss of reputation. The review isn’t a full picture of the interaction. The customer may have been rude and belligerent and refused to pay their bill, but that is not reflected in the online review.

What can you do? If you are tempted to leave a negative comment online, you should take a deep breath. Think about what happened and be fair. You may be better off addressing your issue with the manager. Talk to the owner and see if there is a compromise that can be reached. Is the problem with you, or with them? 

If you leave a bad review word it very carefully. Better yet, don’t do it. You can simply rate the business with a star and leave it at that. If you have lost money, been injured, or have a contractual issue (work was incomplete or substandard for example) you’ll be better off pursuing your case with a lawyer than with a keyboard.

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About Deutschmann Law

Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit www.deutschmannlaw.com or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

The opinions expressed here, while intended to provide useful information, should not be interpreted as legal recommendations or advice.

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