An online rating service, such as Yelp, allows the average person to write comments and rate services/organizations. We all, to some extent, become dependent on these reviews when we’re traveling or simply want to go somewhere new based on ratings. Ultimately, it makes it simple to prevent a bad experience.
Some of the restaurants, hotels, etc. are fighting back and suing the reviewers, claiming it’s “slander.” So where does opinion cross the line into slander? Some of the companies argue that some reviewers are pretty brutal in their comments; however, the organizations that support the review system want that freedom of expression to be at the core of their offering so no one thinks they’re editing comments.
Unfortunately, some people do go too far – the key is to avoid drawing broad generalizations about the experiences that other people may have, speak of your own experience and stay professional and polite in any reviews you’re writing.
The biggest problem is that the average person doesn’t understand libel and slander laws, and they don’t understand what constitutes defamation of character or business. Many people have gotten themselves into trouble while becoming very personal in their review – to the point that their review becomes an attack.
If a review makes a statement that cannot be proved or justified, you’re setting yourself up for a lawsuit, especially if the business loses a significant amount of revenue and business opportunities due to bad reviews.
Recently, there have been steps to protect reviewers’ freedom of speech while minimizing the risk of lawsuits. In fact, California passed a law that prevents any reviewer from getting sued by a business or anyone else they were reviewing.
At the same time, some hotels make it illegal for you to post a negative review. There are terms and conditions that are signed at the check-in desk that includes language that says you’re not allowed to post anything negative about your stay.