Reviewers Beware: Negative Product Reviews Might Cost You

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How many times do we check online reviews of a product before choosing to buy it? Reviews are important for many consumers to make sure they are spending their money on something that is of good quality. But can companies really sue customers for posting a negative review of a product on an online forum?

After posting a negative Amazon review of a Mediabridge brand router, a Florida man recently received a letter from Mediabridge’s lawyers threatening a lawsuit. The company claimed that the review contained false information intended to hurt its reputation and that the man’s statements could be considered slanderous. The company went on to warn that it would sue the man unless he removed his review, stopped purchasing Mediabridge products, and ceased future discussion of the company on the internet.

Can companies really sue individuals over their negative reviews on the internet?

Legal precedent works in favor of the companies. For example, Virginia courts heard a case in 2012 of a similar issue on Yelp and Angie’s List. A retired military captain living in Fairfax County posted a negative review of a contracting service on Yelp and Angie’s List claiming that not only was the service poor, but also that she was billed for services that weren’t performed, and the contractor may have also stolen jewelry. The contractor, Christopher Dietz, sued her for $750,000 for defamatory remarks on an internet review site. Dietz argued that the reviewer’s statements were false and that her negative review impacted his business and reputation. The court held for the contractor. The case was later overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court.

How could this affect consumers?

Providing real insight into the quality of goods and services is the purpose of consumer reviews. It is helpful to read positive reviews in order to make a wise purchase, but negative reviews are also important to warn others of faulty products and poor service. If consumers realize that they can be sued over their critical comments about products, however, many may not be truthful or even write reviews at all anymore. Consumers have a right to know information about the quality of a good o service before they spend their money, but if people are deterred from sharing this information for fear they may create legal trouble for themselves it will become much harder for consumers to make informed decisions.

Can consumer reviews be protected?

Companies like Amazon need to step up to protect their customers. According to Amazon’s terms of use, product sellers are not allowed to demand consumers remove their reviews. These terms are there for a reason: Amazon wants customers to freely critique the items they have purchased through the site. If companies threaten customers with lawsuits over negative reviews, then Amazon needs to step in.

Sarah Helden (@SHelden430)

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Featured image courtesy of [Wikipedia]

Sarah Helden
Sarah Helden is a graduate of The George Washington University and a student at the London School of Economics. She was formerly an intern at Law Street Media. Contact Sarah at



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