Trustpilot to challenge order to remove libellous review
Matthew Howe 26-02-2021
Back in January, we wrote an article on the case of Summerfield Browne v Waymouth.
In summary, Mr Waymouth had instructed a firm of solicitors called Summerfield Browne Ltd. After becoming dissatisfied with their service, he wrote a review on Trustpilot describing the firm as a ‘scam’. As a result, the firm saw a decline in weekly enquiries from potential clients by almost half.
In his judgment, Master Cook awarded the firm £25,000 in general damages along with an order for their costs to be paid on an indemnity basis and he confirmed that the review should be removed.
In a rather interesting turn of events, Trustpilot have issued an ‘alert’ at the header of the firm’s page on their website. This alert contained the following statements:
"Please be aware that this business has taken legal action against a consumer for a review left on this profile.
We strongly oppose the use of legal action to silence consumer’s freedom of speech. As a public, open, review platform we believe strongly in consumers having the ability to leave feedback - good or bad - about a business at any time, without interference.
This is the first time we’ve seen a business taking such extreme measures against a consumer voicing their genuine opinion. The vast majority of businesses on Trustpilot engage with their consumers or use our flagging tools to report content and resolve their issues.
Unfortunately, we are required to remove the review which was the subject of the legal action. We are exploring our options to challenge this decision."
If Trustpilot does in fact challenge the order and refuse to remove the review of Mr Waymouth, we could see a very relevant and landmark judgment in the subsequent proceedings.
It is not completely clear on what ground(s) Trustpilot would challenge the order of Master Cook but it would appear from their statements that they may attempt to rely on Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 which states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression.
We will continue to report on this matter as it unfolds as the outcome could have a serious impact upon the ability or willingness of businesses to take action where untrue material is published about them online.
The importance of reviews to a business cannot be underestimated, particularly when so many goods and services are being accessed remotely from home. When a customer publishes a libellous review, it can have devastating effects for a business, particularly where the review is not genuine.
If your business is suffering because of untrue or malicious reviews, /con/contact to find out how we can help.