Would you sue a customer for leaving a damaging Yelp review?
Christopher Dietz, a Washington D.C. contractor, is seeking $750,000 in damages from a former customer because she left one-star reviews on Yelp and other online review sites. Dietz says these reviews included numerous fabrications and harmed his business.
According to the suit, the customer, Jane Perez, posted reviews claiming that Dietz charged her for work that wasn’t done, damaged her home and that jewelry went missing during the project. Dietz was hired in July 2011 by Perez, a retired captain in the armed forces and former classmate of his, to paint, refinish floors and handle plumbing work, among other tasks. (You can read Perez’s Yelp review of Dietz Development here). The trial started on Monday in Fairfax, Virginia.
Lawsuits stemming from online reviews have been increasing as businesses realize how quickly one angry customer review—or even fake reviews—can harm their business. Dietz claims Perez’s reviews on Yelp and Angie’s List cost him $300,000 in lost customers and personal strife.
In a recent court decision, Yelp was ordered to disclose the identities of seven anonymous reviewers who left negative reviews of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning in Virginia—allowing the business to now sue those reviewers for defamation.
Likewise, some companies are getting in legal trouble for trying to artificially bolster their online reputation. The New York attorney general’s office fined 19 companies between $2,500 and $100,000 last fall after a yearlong investigation found they’d posted fake five-star Yelp reviews.
The bottom line: It’s a good idea for business owners to closely monitor what’s written about them online and document any effects of negative reviews. If a customer review appears fake or contains falsehoods, make sure to keep evidence of it in case you need it later on.
Yelp uses filters to try and weed out fake reviews, but some business owners have claimed Yelp's filters don’t work—keeping the most negative reviews and removing the most glowing ones.
Read more articles on online reviews.