Defamation by competitors
- Hits: 21793
What to do if someone is slandering your business on the internet
If you have recently suffered defamation by competitors or if someone is slandering your business, you might be able to do something about it but you will need to act fast.
Online defamation by competitors is not unheard of. Yes. It is possible to stop defamation by competitors. Your challenge is that often you will need to first prove that it is your competitor who is defaming you or your business. How can you prove that your competitor is defaming you, would demand on the nature of the defamation, the volume of the defamation and where it is being posted. In most cases, the identity of the competitor who is defaming your business might be obvious to you. However, you might still need to go some way to prove this. Once you have obtained proof of the identity of your defaming competitor, you will become one step closer to being able to stop their defamatory activity for good.
Our client, Jeff Clark (not his real name), a husband and a father of three children ages 3, 6, and 10, has always loved cars. He has been fixing them since he was 12, and has worked in local garages around the Manchester area for many years. At one point, Jeff wanted to diversify by selling second-hand car parts for desirable and vintage motor vehicles. He created a niche for himself dealing in second-hand parts and a few years later he became a major dealer with customers all over the world. His business became more and more internet based although he never bothered by that point to invest substantial amount of time and money on a fancy website.
His hobby turned into his main business in which his wife and two of his sons became partners. At one point, Jeff noticed that business was slowing down for no apparent reason. Shortly after, he then received a telephone call from one of his main dealers, who told him about a number of allegations which had been made against Jeff and his company over the internet. Jeff was not aware of this before, and to his horror, he soon discovered that he was described on the internet as a thief, a crook, and a fraud. When business was thriving, Jeff did not give much attention to his business’ online reputation. He had never done much to promote his business reputation online and had never participated in internet forums or in written blogs. But now, when it has all gone quiet, he had no choice but to give this part of this business marketing all the attention that was needed, otherwise there would be no business left for him.
It could be shocking to one day find false reviews published about your company. When Jeff typed his company's name on Google, he instantly realised where all his business had gone. Most of the negative reviews about him looked as if it had been written by the same person. They were, what we call, fake online reviews. Upon further investigation by our solicitors, we identified the main source of the defamation to be a review website, dedicated to second-hand car parts. The review website included adverts and had only a handful of second-hand parts dealer listed on it.
Jeff had recognised that the best scoring company on the review website was none other than his main competitor. When we investigated the fake Google reviews, we also found a similar trend where Jeff’s business was ranked very low in terms of the quality of the reviews and that his competitor had nothing but glowing reviews to their name.
The more we investigated the online reviews, the more it became apparent that it was Jeff’s competitors who had been posting them. Further investigation of the second-hand car reviews website revealed that it was highly likely that the review website was either owned by or operated by the very same competitors.
Through the domain name registrar and the host of the website, we send them a letter of requesting a third party disclosure, also known as Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO.) Fortunately, within days of sending the letter, all the fake reviews against Jeff’s business had been removed from the fake review website. We then, through Google, requested a similar disclosure by way of an NPO. It took although this time it took a little bit longer, the fake Google reviews against Jeff had also been deleted within a few weeks. It took some time to completely clear the internet from the defamation against Jeff, but we got it done. Matters slowly started to improve, and his business is now back to normal.
The competitor never attempted to post fake reviews again and the matter was satisfactorily resolved for Jeff without having to get him involved in litigation. In his case, he was less interested in obtaining compensations or in holding his competitor to account for posting fake reviews, and more interested in working on, and growing his family business. This was a pragmatic view by a victim of fake online reviews, which we understand, respect and often advise on. The position regarding holding the poster of a fake online review to account is something that each victim of fake online reviews need to consider in accordance with their aims, goals and financial circumstances.