How many of us have found ourselves incredibly frustrated when we received a negative review for our dealership that was blatantly false?
Are reviewers of your dealership allowed to say anything they want – even if it is untrue?
As Americans, each of us is fortunate to have the right to free speech. The Internet provides a quick and simple way for each of us to share our experiences and reviews of products and services we use each day. I know that having the ability to read other folks’ reviews has been incredibly helpful to me, whether I am looking to buy a new item on Amazon, or while scheduling a trip and checking out TripAdvisor. However, where do you draw the line, if at all, when it comes to negative reviews?
Recently, a judge in Virginia ordered a Yelp user to change their negative review. The user had left a particularly nasty review for a building contractor that they accused of stealing. The business sued for $750,000 in response to the negative review, as they claimed they had lost significant money due to this negative review. In particular, the reviewer stated that the contractor had damaged their home, trespassed, and stolen jewelry. The building contractor stated the accusations were false – and that the negative review was costing them business. The full details of the case are available here.
I believe that many of us have faced similar situations where an unhappy customer leaves a negative review with false, and even libelous statements. Are they protected by their right to free speech?
My opinion is NO!
Many of us have heard that we have the right to free speech, but we do not have the right to enter a movie theater and scream “fire” and induce panic when that is not the case. I believe the same analogy applies here. The right to free speech is crossed when the reviewer makes false and libelous statements that damage the dealership’s reputation and also cost future business due to false accusations. I am perfectly fine with a negative review that is accurate, however, making false statements in order to cause damage to future business for a dealership is wrong and malicious.
While dealer ratings and review sites like DealerRater have tools and processes in place to ensure that any review, positive or negative, is accurate, there are many other sites that provide no avenue of response for a dealer that is unfairly accused.
Some of you might also be familiar with another review site (which I do not want to name here) that is ran by a felon where dealers are extorted to remove negative reviews which are planted by the site itself as a money-making scheme. When dealers work so hard to ensure their customers are 100% satisfied, there is nothing more frustrating than when a disgruntled customer leaves malicious and false reviews online.
Where do you stand on this?
Do you think that reviewers can say whatever they want, without any legal recourse for dealers? And perhaps next time you leave a negative review for someone, you should think twice about what you are saying…