Lynch Law Firm, PLLC
My Texas Startup Got Yelped!
Yelp And Your Startup Reputation
Yelp is stirring up controversies and even law firms have difficulty with negative Yelp Reviews. It is very hard for companies to combat a bad Yelp review. A brief review of the law will help you understand when using the law to fight a bad review may be the best option. More often, recognizing that the criticism elicited emotions, choosing to act with clever integrity, and behaving with old-fashioned customer service are better and cheaper ways to combat negative yelp reviews.
Libel or Free Speech
Libel is a false and defamatory statement of fact about a specific group or person. There are entire books and courses on the specifics and exceptions to this rule. The determination of fact or opinion is the issue that gets the most attention with regards to Yelp reviews. Reporting that, “I hated the food” is obviously an opinion and even opinions stated as fact, such as “The food is awful,” are typically regarded as opinions. Having an opinion is not illegal, so says the First Amendment.
Texas, and 29 other states, has Anti-Slapp (or laws prohibiting a strategic lawsuit against public participation in free speech) laws. The Texas statutes are typical and allow a judge to dismiss a case that is frivolous and the petitioner need only prove that the suit was filed in response to someone exercising their free speech. The website SlappedInTexas.com does an excellent job explaining this.
Remember you need to prove damages to file a law suite. In my experience, it is nearly impossible to prove a causal connection between a bad Yelp review and a decline in profits. Often, evidence just as strongly leads to evidence showing that declining customer service led to the bad Yelp review.
Further, turning the tables, in a professional manner, is often an exceptional way to show your integrity to the world. Use caution about acting or sounding passive aggressive and do not attempt to make a counterpoint about each statement in the negative review. Use Yelp’s response functionality to respond, with integrity, about the misunderstanding and then live up to it. Other customers understand that bad things happen but want to know that the company is reputable enough to remediate the situation. The reviewer may even remove the review once they feel their concerns have been addressed.
The following websites are also very helpful in determining if your bad Yelp review is worth pursing legal action: