How do I stop someone from defaming my business
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How can a business defend itself against defamation online
What happens when a business is being defamed online? Can anything be done about it or free speech is king? The following case study gives some answers to these questions by considering a typical situation of online defamation which small and medium size business often face.
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Our client Jacob Green (not his real name) was an experienced auctioneer, with 30 years in the industry. He specialised in contemporary and oriental art and entertainment memorabilia. He was one of the most established auction businesses in the North of England. Until one day, scores of negative and defamatory online reviews about his business began to appear online. Who was posting those online reviews was mystery that our client was very interested in solving.
The auctioneer found himself at the receiving end of groundless allegations. Claims of fraud and deception began to dominate online search results related to his real name and the name of the business. Such blatant misinformation threatened not just his reputation but also the future of the business him and his family poured their life into. The auctioneer suspected that the defamatory posts came from a new auction business which opened not far from theirs, a couple of years earlier.
Naturally, the auctioneer's operation was built on a foundation of trust and credibility. As soon as the allegations surfaced, the impact was almost instant. Potential clients, upon encountering these accusations, began to second-guess their decisions to do business with the auctioneer. Existing clients with longstanding relationships became apprehensive.
The sales figures began to reflect these concerns as monthly revenues started to dip. Online reviews and search results can heavily influence a customer's decision-making process. Even those customers you might think wouldn’t judge you or your business in this way. With the rise of these defamatory claims, the auctioneer's Google Business listing, a critical touchpoint for new clientele, began showing these negative results.
Consequently, there was a noticeable drop in online inquiries, bids on auction items, and overall engagement. For a business in the art and collectibles sector, where the value of items can run into thousands, if not millions, even a few lost sales can lead to substantial financial setbacks.
When you put your entire life into building up a successful business, whenever things go wrong, the impact is never online financial but also emotional and in some cases even physical. In our client’s case, indeed, the toll wasn't just financial, but deeply personal. The auctioneer, who had always taken pride in his integrity and had worked tirelessly to cultivate a reputation for honesty, found himself questioning his self-worth. He became continually on edge, doubting every business decision and second-guessing every interaction.
After isolating himself, he also began avoiding social gatherings and industry events for fear of confronting the rumours. This not only further impacted business networking opportunities but also created a strain on personal relationships. Anxiety, stress, and feelings of helplessness became frequent companions, overshadowing the passion he once felt for his work.
The situation was tricky in several ways. In the auction business, trust is key. Buyers and sellers need to believe they're working with someone honest. Even a small rumour, true or not, is futile and van can tarnish this trust permanently. Secondly, the speed at which information, especially negative news, spreads online is staggering. Within days, or even hours, a single defamatory post can be shared, commented on, and amplified to reach an unlimited number of people. Lastly, the significant distress of facing public accusations, especially when they are unsupported, can be immeasurable.
The blending of personal and professional identities means that attacks on one's business integrity feel like attacks on one's very character, leading to increased distress. In the auctioneer's case, these factors combined, lead him to view the defamatory claims not just a business crisis, but a deeply personal ordeal.
The answer would depend on how seriously the impact of the defamation affects the business owner. Understanding the severity of the situation and recognising the urgent need to clear one’s name, the auctioneer booked a consultation with our law firm. He was not just looking for a quick fix, but for a team that could systematically address the malicious rumours and the defamation and help him restore his long-standing credited reputation.
In many cases an expert online defamation solicitor can help remove business online defamation provided the business owner is awaken to the defamatory online reviews and to their impact early. In Jacob’s case, our firm sprang into action immediately, beginning with two major threads that we located on the consumer website Money Saving Expert that were extensively publicising these falsehoods.
Our prior experience with the platform enabled us to quickly navigate the removal process. After numerous discussions and negotiations we successfully had the defamatory content taken down. Our client faced further defamatory remarks on Google business listing. These were dealt with directly with Google. Persistence, coupled with a strategic approach, led to the successful removal or delisting of all the defamatory content.
Our client's name and business were no longer associated with baseless accusations. Relieved and pleased with our services, the auctioneer took a proactive step by signing up for our subscription services, ensuring to be shielded from such unwarranted attacks in the future.
Dealing with this case was a stark reminder of how quickly things can spiral out of control online for UK small businesses. From our first meeting, it was evident that the auctioneer wasn’t just facing a business challenge; it felt deeply personal for him. The internet, with its ability to amplify both praises and criticisms, has made timely action crucial.
This situation wasn't merely about rectifying a tarnished business image. It was about restoring someone's confidence and peace of mind. The case underscored the important role we, as lawyers, play: not just in the legal arena but in genuinely making a difference in people's lives.
Case studies are based on true cases where names, dates and circumstances have often been amended to protect the identity of those involved.