Think before You Yelp, Avoid Getting Sued

Posted on Dec 14, 2012

So, the service you received from a local business was terrible and you’re eager to voice your opinion; just make sure you’re telling the truth before you go posting a bad review on Yelp or Angie’s List. That’s because you could get sued. NPR reported on December 9 that a housing contractor sued a former customer for a negative review about his company on Yelp.

According to NPR, Christopher Dietz, owner of Dietz Development LLC, sued Jane Perez for $750,000 in defamation charges for her reviews of his business on Yelp. She wrote that his company damaged her home, and that jewelry was missing after they left. After taking her to court, the judge took his side and ordered her to remove certain parts of the reviews.

Online customer review sites are fairly new, which is why these types of cases are uncommon, Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman told NPR News. According to Goldman, laws are still being created about how to deal with these issues, and there is nothing today that supports lawsuits for one, negative review.

So how damaging is a negative review on sites such as Yelp or Angie’s list? According to a Harvard Study in 2011, a one-star increase on Yelp turns into a 5 to 9 percent raise in income. So you could image was a one-star decrease could do. According to the article, this is why so many businesses are so adamant about protecting their online reputation.

Even though sites such as Yelp allow negative reviews, the information that we write on these sites could be used against us. Does that mean we should avoid writing negative reviews? According to the article, not necessarily. As long as the review is not untrue, defamatory, or libelous, the writer should be safe.