Recently, a contractor sued a former client for posting a bad review on Yelp for $750,000. At first glance, it may seem a little odd to sue a customer for writing a bad review about a business. Isn’t that what Yelp is all about, a place for customers to voice their experience with a particular company, whether it is good or bad? Well it is, but slandering a business owner’s name and morals on Yelp is crossing the line.
This customer wrote on Yelp, that the contractor who was working on her house did a horrible job, ruined her house, and stole her jewelry. This customer has the right to share with the Yelp world her disappointing experience with this particular contractor’s final project. However, she cannot slander a man’s name, by making ridiculous accusations about stealing jewelry without proof.
Because she made this accusation, the contractor lost over $300,000 worth of clients, who ran in the other direction when they read this angry customer’s review. Shouldn’t a comment like that be filtered out? This woman, who had no proof to support her accusations, could have cost a man his whole business. Police could not find any evidence that linked this contractor or his company to the missing jewelry.
A lot of people, including the customer’s lawyer, claims this lawsuit is an infringement on freedom of speech, as well as turning people away from voicing their true opinions about businesses. Freedom of speech does not give you the right to slander someone’s name and business. But this whole situation does seem to turn people away from even using Yelp. Business owners may not feel safe or protected by the guidelines of Yelp. Clearly a customer can write whatever he or she wants without worrying about being filtered out. Customers on the other hand might fear getting sued for writing a review.
I think that the solution to this problem is that Yelp and other places where writing reviews about businesses are popular, should update their filtering systems. Despite this ugly lawsuit, I believe places like Yelp and Angie’s list are an important asset for both businesses and customers. But for this great asset to be used effectively, something has to be done about the filtering process.
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