Monday, October 12, 2015

Your online negative review could cost you money

In New York, a judge has ruled that if you post a negative review on Yelp that includes certain words, your review is no longer your opinion [protected by the First Amendment] but is libelous.

As of now, in New York, don't use the following words [or, presumably, words like them] in your online reviews:


The customer hired a floor-refinishing company to refinish her floors, for $700. The completed project wasn't to her expectations, so she blasted the company on Yelp, using the three words above. A New York judge decided those words implied more than just the fact this lady wasn't satisfied with the service. They implied criminal behavior. As I read the ruling, the judge ordered as follows:

1. The dissatisfied customer must pay the refinishing company $1000 for the “libelous review” [which apparently he decided was not protected by the First Amendment, which means it qualified as legally more than just this lady's opinion].

2. The refinishing company owed this lady $400 because it was not properly licensed.

3. The refinishing company is not required to reimburse this customer the cost she had to pay to have the job re-done by a different [presumably licensed] company.

Now I don't understand why, if the company wasn't licensed, the judge didn't require a refund of the entire $700 the customer paid.

A Yelp representative, who appears to have a firm grasp on reality, stated that most businesses prefer to address negative reviews informally on the review site, not by taking legal action which can result in even more harm to the business reputation.

The customer plans to appeal this decision.

Hopefully the judge who hears the appeal is someone who was actually paying attention when he took Constitutional Law in law school.

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