How to remove online reviews from review websites
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How to remove online reviews from review websites outside the UK
Once of the most challenging tasks for UK businesses is the dealing with review websites that are located outside of the UK. Review websites such as Yelp, Glass Door, Google My Business and Trust Pilot are located in foreign countries and as such, operate under their own local laws.
Dealing with online review websites that are located outside the UK is often a frustrating and upsetting experience for UK businesses. Often, UK businesses report arrogance and ignorance on the part of the online review operators, who ultimately, hold all the power when it comes to their relationships with the UK based business. UK businesses often find themselves almost having to beg for a reply to their review removal request from the review website operators who appear to be in no particular rush to assist and support the business in question.
Online business review platforms who charge businesses for an upgraded level of support, often react harshly towards businesses when the business decides to stop paying the monthly fee. Those businesses who decide to terminate their monthly subscription, often find themselves being subjected to immediate “audits” by the review website operators which nearly always result in the removal of dozens of positive reviews and the reinstatement of negative ones.
In most cases, your legal action against an online review website will be limited to obtaining disclosure orders and then the requirement to the website operator to comply with the disclosure order and subsequently with the court order to remove the defamatory reviews. However, prior to taking legal action against a review website, particularly a review website which is located outside the UK, your lawyers will try to have the matter resolved amicably with the review website and have the negative and defamatory reviews in question removed from the platform. Legal communication with the online review website is often the most effective way to facilitate the removal of the negative and defamatory online reviews from their platforms but sometimes there might be more action which is required.
This is where you will need to look at questions such as who are the authors of the defamatory reviews. Questions such as, what country they are from, what law should apply to them and what law should apply to the online review platform, which jurisdiction is the most appropriate to go and obtain a disclosure order to reveal the true identify of anonymous posters of online reviews and if you were to file a legal claim for defamation against the online reviews, what is the best way to achieve your desired outcome at the lowest possible costs. Whilst every case involving defamatory online reviews is different, there are some common grounds and common denominators to many of those cases, enough, at least, to provide a short guidance as to how to remove online reviews from websites that are not located in the UK.
If you don’t know the true identity of the poster of the defamatory online review, which was posted on a website located in the USA, you might need to obtain disclosure orders against the review website. Here, you will have two options. The first, is to apply for an Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) to a court in the UK against the website operator who is located in the USA. This could be problematic and expensive. Problematic, because the courts in the UK will be reluctant to give you a disclosure order without hearing representations from the third party who needs to comply with the order.
If this third party is a review website that is located in San Francisco California, you might find that the website operators might not be keen to take part in legal proceedings in the UK. They could possibly raise all sorts of contractual and jurisdictional issues which might complicate matters for you. It could be expensive, because even if you can obtain the Norwich Pharmacal Order in the UK, the website operator in San Francisco might require you to domesticate the order in their own local court.
This is particularly likely to be the case in relation to defamatory online reviews because there is in the USA a law, which is called The Speech Act, which prevents many courts in the USA from adhering to court orders from outside the USA that may restrict free speech. If you find that you need to domesticate your Norwich Pharmacal Order in the San Francisco, it means you will need to file a claim over there in addition to the legal proceedings that you have already commenced in the UK. You can see why this could get expensive. But matters don’t need to be complicated once you already know what to do. In most cases, we will look at the circumstances of your case and we will be able to advise you, based on our expensive experience, on the most effective way to obtain the disclosure from a USA based website.
The issue of cost would depend on each case. Sometimes it is more cost effective to apply for a Norwich Pharmacal Order in the UK and in other times the most cost effective way of obtaining a disclosure order against a website operator from the USA would be to obtain a disclosure order in the review website’s local court. The differences in cost could be very significant so you must make sure you do your research property before applying for a Norwich Pharmacal Order or for a disclosure order either here or in the USA. Speed might also be an important factor for you to consider. The speed at which you will be able to obtain your disclosure order from a USA based website may vary, depending on the details of your case. Again, in most cases, we will know the fastest and safest route for you to obtain the disclosure you need so make sure that you take timing and speed into consideration.