My business is being affected, what can I do?

Many businesses often deal with negative online reviews.  Customers are entitled to voice their opinions in online forums but these must be based on fact.  Negative reviews may deter would be customers from visiting those businesses or using their services.  Small business owners should be aware that they have certain rights under the Defamation Act 2005 (Qld).  The Defamation Act combines slander (verbal comments) and libel (written comments) into one cause of action called defamation.

The Defamation Act 2005 (Qld) applies to individuals (including partnerships) and companies (i.e. WYZ Pty Ltd) with less than 10 employees.

A customer posted a review against my business which is totally false.  What can I do?

Defamation occurs where a person communicates any matter which “adversely affects” the reputation of the defamed person in the eyes of a reasonable person.  If a person publishes an online review containing false allegations, then the publication would be defamatory.

However, the person accused of defamation may argue that the imputation contained in the publication was “substantially” true.  This will be a defence to any defamation claim.

A customer posted a negative review which is mostly true.  But the internet forum isn’t allowing any positive reviews to be posted on to the forum.  What can I do?

The defendant’s publication must be reasonable in the circumstances.  Whether a comment is reasonable will depend on a number of factors, including whether the matter published contained the substance of the aggrieved’s side of the story and, if not, whether a reasonable attempt was made by the defendant to obtain and publish a response from the person.

If an online forum does not permit you to give your side of the story and seems to only publish negative reviews, it might be the case that the publication is not reasonable in the circumstances.  In that case, the publisher may be liable for defamation.

​It feels like I’m losing customers because of these clearly false reviews.  Is there anything I can do?

If a person publishes content which is defamatory, then the aggrieved should send a letter outlining their concerns regarding the publication (a “concerns notice”).  The concerns notice sets out particular comments which are of concern and usually calls for a retraction or apology.  It is then open to the publisher to make an offer to make amends within 28 days of being given the concerns notice.  If the concerns notice does not resolve the matter, you may be able to sue for damage to your reputation and for any financial loss you have suffered.

Our commercial litigation team regularly deals with defamation matters.  Please do not hesitate to contact our office on (07) 4963 2000 or via our online contact form should you have any queries.

Benjamin O’Sullivan
Litigation & Dispute Resolution