This is the likelihood of facing legal action if you leave a bad review online

This is the likelihood of facing legal action if you leave a bad review online
A bad review is only defamatory if you make a false statement which is likely to cause financial loss to a business (Photo: Shutterstock)

More and more of us are turning to social media and review sites before visiting restaurants, booking holidays or buying tickets for entertainment. But could sharing thoughts and experiences online turn into an unexpected legal dispute?

The recent case of a pub landlady in Wales ‘taking on’ a spate of bad online reviews has highlighted the dangers of publicly sharing your opinions.

Here, Hannah Parsons, Principal Associate Solicitor at DAS Law shares some handy tips to help ensure your review doesn’t get you into hot water.

What am I legally allowed to write in an online review?

Most importantly, tell the truth. An online review is not libellous if the statements contained in the review are true. You are entitled to give your honest opinion.

A bad review is only defamatory if you make a false statement which is likely to cause financial loss to a business.

Nevertheless, whilst you have the right to freedom of expression, this is not an absolute right and does not give you the right to make defamatory statements. Avoid making such statements, but don’t be deterred from sharing your honest views and experiences.

What happens if my review is considered defamatory?

A business pursuing a claim for libel without a just cause could prove costly as they could face huge legal fees if they are unsuccessful.

Many travel sites such as TripAdvisor allow businesses to provide a response to reviews, giving their side of the story (Photo: Shutterstock)
Many travel sites such as TripAdvisor allow businesses to provide a response to reviews, giving their side of the story (Photo: Shutterstock)

However, if a business is successful in a defamation case against you, they would generally be able to recover compensation, legal costs and get a court order instructing you to remove your review from the website and publish an apology.

What can I do if I own a business and get a bad review?

For a business, an unhappy reviewer may not make pleasant reading but a bad review does not always equate to a defamatory one. Court action should generally be the last resort, as defamation claims could be very costly.

If you are a business considering litigation, then specialist advice must be sought.

Businesses can report the comment to the website but if the comment is genuine the website is unlikely to take it down, even if it appears to be defamatory. Many travel sites such as TripAdvisor allow businesses to provide a response to the review, giving their side of the story.

Where is the line?

Like many aspects of law, common sense and truth are the watch-words. Whilst you’re entitled to express your views and post your opinions, be aware of the potential impact this may have on the hotel or business you stayed at.

If your review is not truthful and has a negative financial impact, then your review could be considered libellous in a court of law.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created

This article originally appeared on our sister site, The Peterborough Telegraph