Defamation in False Online Review
In a case brought by a US law firm in respect of a defamatory allegation on the firm’s Google Maps profile, it was held that the posting of a false online review by an English poster amounted to defamation deserving of substantial damages. In The Bussey Law Firm PC & Anor v. Page  EWHC 563 (QB), the offending post read as follows:
‘Scumbag Tim Bussey, pays for false reviews, loses 80% of his cases.
Not a happy camper’
When I mention that I represent clients who are suing for false online reviews, I sometimes get a shocked look. People feel that reviews should be off limits, since they are matter of opinion.
In a perfect world that would be entirely true, but as this case illustrates, a review is not a matter of opinion if it is a complete fabrication by someone who has never done business with the company. Here, the defendant charges $5 to write fake reviews. The reviews can be good or bad, depending on what the purchaser wants. Keep that in mind whenever you are reading on-line reviews.
The damages awarded are also interesting. No doubt, the plaintiff could not show any direct loss of business because of this one bad review, but the court nonetheless awarded the maximum amount permitted under the law. One’s reputation has value, and the court felt a stiff damage award was appropriate for damaging the reputation.