Court Rules ‘Dissatisfied Customers Yelp Comments Can Stay on Web’
Still don't believe that "word-of-mouth" is now digital?
Perhaps you don't think what your customers are saying on those review sites like Yelp, Google Places, or Zagat even matters. Well it may be time for you to rethink that approach.
Meet contractor Christopher Dietz of Fairfax County, Virginia. His client, Jane Perez, wrote on Yelp that Dietz failed to deliver promised services and implied he might have "sticky fingers" since some jewelry was missing from her house.
He sued her -- and won. In early December, a trial court ordered Perez to remove portions of her negative review, including references to the missing jewelry and to an earlier court ruling surrounding their dispute. That ruling gained national attention.
Enter Paul Alan Levy, an attorney for advocacy group Public Citizen, which filed Jane Perez’s appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. And guess what happened? The Virginia Supreme Court overruled the lower court, finding that "the preliminary injunction was not justified," removing restrictions on her original review and siding with Perez’ argument that the lower court’s decision represented unreasonable “prior restraint” of her right to free speech.
Said Levy, “The decision confirms the importance of not shutting down public discussion on the Internet just because someone doesn’t like what’s being talked about.”
As more consumers turn to review sites like Yelp, some businesses are responded by suing their customers for libel, claiming damages through lost future customers. These cases are getting mixed results. If you have a "sound case for defamation, by all means, you can bring it, but you shouldn't expect to have (comments) taken off-line at first blush,” added Levy.
So what do you think? How are you adapting to the digital word-of-mouth? Please leave your comments below.