Online defamation cases have been increasing every year, and it is mainly due to social media, blogs and review sites.
In 2014, there were more defamation cases than at any time since 2009. There were a total of 227 cases of alleged libel or slander, up from 142 in 2013. The figures are showing a 23% increase on average every year since 2009.
The Defamation Act 2013 was meant to try and curb trivial claims, such as those brought by large wealthy companies against people simply giving their opinion, but it doesn’t seem to have worked.
Online defamation cases have more than quadrupled in the past year and it’s probably down to social media. More and more, people are using it as the way to communicate not only with friends but with people and companies that they do not personally know. Often, people type without thinking through the possible consequences of their words.
Personal opinion and freedom of speech is all well and good, but unfounded derogatory remarks that could potentially damage someone’s reputation, or that of their company, are not.
A recent case found Jason Page of Telford facing a legal bill of £100,000 when he posted a groundless review on Google Maps. He called a US based lawyer a "scumbag" and said he “loses 80 per cent of his cases.” None of this is true and the lawyer in question, Timothy Bussey, sued him for defamation. The High Court ruled in Mr Bussey’s favour.
Why Jason Page decided to write a review of someone he had never met and a company he’d never used remains a mystery. But it does show that anonymous reviews do have repercussions, especially if they are simply untrue.
A simple negative review is fine. No one is going to sue you for stating that you weren’t happy with a product or service. But if you were to state something that was completely made up, had no facts or evidence to back it up, then you run the risk of being sued for libel.
From a business point of view, a negative review isn’t necessarily reason to sue someone, especially if they were just unhappy with something. But if you think that what is written about you is unfounded and potentially harmful to your business you have every right to fight back.
If you need help and advice about defamation, be it slander or libel, please get in touch with our expert team of defamation lawyers at Slater and Gordon UK. We have many years of experience working with both individuals and businesses.
Call us on Freephone 0800 916 9081 or contact us online and we will call you.