Leaving an online review: a risky practice?
You’ve bought a product or used a service with which you’re not satisfied. So you decide to vent on social networks and openly criticize the company you’ve done business with. Good or bad idea?
Anyone can express their opinion of a merchant by leaving a review online. It’s easy and sometimes tempting to become a vigilante. But should we do it because we can?
Online reviews are very useful for consumers looking to make an informed choice when shopping for a good or service. For their part, companies obviously want to maintain their reputation.
But where is the legal balance? What are the rights of the 2 parties? Is there a limit to freedom of expression?
What the law says
Companies have the right to safeguard their reputation. Consumers, for their part, have the right to speak out and criticize a company’s goods and services. But they can’t say EVERYTHING. There is a limit to freedom of expression, to what can be written on the Internet.
Where do you draw the line? How do you go about sharing your opinion without going too far?
It’s important to know that your freedom of expression as a consumer is not absolute, and that your comments may be deemed defamatory if the court considers that they have damaged the reputation or image of the company. Defamatory statements made online (cyber-defamation) are assessed in the same way as those made through traditional media or in person.
However, a negative review is not necessarily defamatory. So negative reviews, when done in the right way, shouldn’t result in legal action simply because the company disagrees with what you’ve said.
However, if your review is left with malicious intent, attacks the company’s reputation or seeks to ridicule or humiliate it, exposing it to public hatred or contempt, the company could take legal action against you for defamation.
Canadian consumers have already been ordered to pay sums ranging from $1,500 to $115,000!
- Reflection time
- Respectful tone
- Interest and protection of the public
- Nuanced words
- Tell your personal experience
- Intent to harm
- Personal attacks
- Smear campaign
- Abusive or foul language
- False and misleading statements