Online ratings and reviews have become one of the most popular ways of finding information about a business. Unfortunately, this system is prone to abuse. Someone with a personal grudge may leave a false or inaccurate review and a low rating. This can not only harm a business’s reputation, but it can affect its search rankings, making it harder for potential clients to find them online.
This demonstrates the importance of reputation management, which can help a business address negative ratings and reviews while also increasing its number of positive reviews and improving its average ratings. People should also understand that there may be consequences for leaving negative reviews that are meant to harm a business. This was illustrated in a recent legal case that took place in Illinois.
Attorney Wins Judgment Against Former Client
In 2016, a criminal defense attorney in DuPage County, Illinois began representing a client who was facing shoplifting charges. The case was resolved in 2017, and the client received a sentence of one year of supervision in return for pleading guilty. Two years later, when the client was eligible for expungement, he contacted the attorney and was informed that there would be an additional fee for assistance with the expungement process. The client objected to this, claiming that the attorney had said that expungement would be included as part of the services provided during the case.
Even though the retainer agreement the client had originally signed stated that expungements were not included in the initial costs paid to the attorney, the client insisted that the attorney should provide expungement services for free. When the attorney did not agree to do so, the client left a negative Google review, and around the same time, several other similar reviews were also left by other people who had never been represented by the attorney.
Because these negative reviews significantly decreased the attorney's online reputation and damaged his business, he pursued a libel case against the former client. He provided significant evidence showing that the former client had made false statements in his review, and he also stated that the client had called his office and said the negative review would only be taken down if his expungement was performed for free. After hearing the case, the court ordered the former client to pay compensatory damages of $100,000 and punitive damages of $50,000.
Reputation Management Services
While this case demonstrates the dangers of making false statements online, it also shows that law firms and other businesses may have options if someone has left negative reviews that are false or misleading. Most of the time, businesses will not be looking to pursue legal action, but there are other steps they can take to improve their overall reputation and respond to negative reviews. At OVC, INC., we help businesses monitor their online reputation and find ways they can receive more positive reviews and ratings. Contact our reputation management experts today at 630-635-8000 to learn more.