Are you one of the many thousands of U.S. consumers who actively research restaurants and other companies before you decide where to spend your money? Review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List are prime examples of Internet destinations that aid American spenders in finding the best food, doctors, contractors, salons, and other services. According to a paper written by Michael Luca, assistant professor of Business at Harvard Business School, an increase of just one star on Yelp can increase restaurant sales by 5-9%. If you are a consistent contributor to review sites, be careful what you say—while freedom of speech is valued in this country, it is still illegal to dishonestly defame someone’s profession and cause them unjust business losses. Below are a few examples of online reviews that resulted in litigation:
- A plastic surgeon based out of Orlando, Amando Soto, sued an anonymous poster on who said his “Vaser Liposelection,” a body sculpting technique for men, was a “waste of money” and a “bad experience” on RateMD.com. Soto eventually learned the poster’s true identity and plans to sue.
- The owner of Dietz Development, a company of contractors in Washington, D.C., Christopher Diaz, is suing Jane Perez in a $750,000 lawsuit after she posted that he “trespassed and damaged her property,” and made allegations that he stole jewelry from her home on the review site, Angie’s List. A judge ordered a removal of the statement and courts are still debating on whether or not defamation can be charged.
- Steven Biegel, a chiropractor from San Francisco, filed a lawsuit against Christopher Norberg after Norberg accused him of fraudulent billing practices on the website, Yelp. The case was settled out of court.
- The singer, Courtney Love, was sued in a $430,000 settlement after she posted defaming comments about clothing designer, Dawn Simorangkir on the social media site, Twitter. Love and Simorangkir were apparently disputing about unpaid clothing bills, which provoked Love to post accusations that the designer took drugs and lost the custody of her child.