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How do I stop someone from defaming my business

How do I stop someone from defaming my business

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.

Table of content

What can go wrong with your online business reputation

What is the impact of defamatory online reviews on an established business

How defamatory statements may affect business owners’ wellbeing

Do victims of business defamation need to contact a solicitor

How can an expert solicitor help remove business online defamation

Lawyer’s thoughts about the case

What can go wrong with your online business reputation

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.

What is the impact of defamatory online reviews on an established business

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.

How defamatory statements may affect business owners’ wellbeing

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.

Company Defamation Advice FAQ

Making false statements about a company that harm its reputation can have legal consequences. It may be considered defamation, which involves making false statements that harm the reputation of another person or entity. The company may have grounds to sue for damages, including financial loss and damage to their reputation. Additionally, the person responsible for making the false statements may face legal action, including potential civil liability. It is important to note that the specific legal consequences can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case.

A company can protect itself against defamation from competitors or disgruntled employees by implementing several measures. Firstly, maintaining a positive corporate culture and fostering good relationships with employees can reduce the likelihood of disgruntled employees engaging in defamation. Additionally, implementing strict confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements can prevent employees from sharing sensitive information that could be used against the company. Regular monitoring of online platforms and social media can help detect and address any defamatory content posted by competitors or individuals. Finally, promptly responding to any defamatory statements and seeking legal advice can help protect the company's reputation and pursue appropriate legal actions if necessary.

Yes, there are several defences available to individuals or organizations accused of company defamation. One common defence is truth, where the accused can argue that the statement made about the company is true and therefore not defamatory. Another defence is opinion, where the accused can argue that the statement is a subjective opinion rather than a statement of fact. Additionally, if the statement is privileged, such as statements made in a court proceeding or by a government official, it may be protected from defamation claims. Finally, if the accused can prove that the statement was made without actual malice or with a legitimate purpose, they may be able to defend against defamation accusations.

To repair its reputation after being a victim of defamation, a company can take several steps. Firstly, it is important to gather evidence to prove the defamation and identify the source. Legal action can be pursued against the defamatory party to seek damages and a retraction. Secondly, engaging with the public and stakeholders through transparent communication is crucial. The company should address the defamation directly, providing accurate information and countering false claims. Utilising social media and other platforms, the company can share positive stories, testimonials, and achievements to rebuild trust. Collaborating with influencers, industry experts, and media outlets can also help in restoring the company's reputation. Finally, continuously monitoring and managing online presence is essential to combat any lingering negative content.

Yes, a company can sue for defamation if false statements were made on social media platforms or online review websites. If a company can prove that false statements were made about them on social media or online review websites, and that these statements have caused harm to their reputation or business, they may have grounds to file a defamation lawsuit. However, the company would need to meet certain legal requirements, such as proving that the statements are false and caused actual harm.

Do victims of business defamation need to contact a solicitor

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.

How can an expert solicitor help remove business online defamation

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.

Lawyer’s thoughts about the case

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.

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