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Customers are increasingly turning to social media to post bad reviews about goods or services they have bought, causing damage to businesses’ reputations. We would caution against posting online before first exhausting the complaints process.

That avenue may not be the best route to take, as shown in the case of Annabelle Narey after she posted a negative review of a building firm on Mumsnet. Negative reviews can lead to defamation claims or posts can be taken down on copyright pretexts. We would say to parties bringing or facing claims in relation to reviews, “mediate.”

Mrs Narey, had ordered a side extension from a builder, but almost six months later, the relationship had turned sour. She wrote a negative review.  The builder argued that 11 statements were defamatory.

In April Mumsnet received a warning from Google: a takedown request had been made under the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), alleging that copyrighted material was posted without a licence on the thread.

As soon as the DMCA takedown request had been filed, Google de-listed the entire thread. Google told Mumsnet it could make a counterclaim, if it was certain no infringement had taken place, but since the site couldn’t verify that its users weren’t actually posting copyrighted material, it would have opened it up to legal action.  Mumsnet deleted the post.

We would always caution customers against posting negative reviews online and advise them to complain and take the complaint to trader’s certified ADR directive provider, to mediate the dispute. Apart from anything else, once a negative review has been published the trader may well feel that it has to dig its heels in and defend the allegations.