If a customer leaves an unfair online review, your first step could be to ask the customer or site owner to remove the review. But if they refuse, can you take the matter further?

In NSW, a disgruntled customer left a one-star review about a painter claiming the painter “caused damage to our personal property and left the job unfinished with over 130 defects on the outside [of the house] alone.”

The painter instituted defamation proceedings against the customer over the review, stating it was unfair.

In this instance, the presiding judge, Judith Gibson, found:

  • The information was someone’s personal experience and views
  • The publication was brief (the review was taken down)
  • There was no evidence anyone had read the review

Therefore, the judge ruled that the painter had not proved that the review was likely to cause serious harm to his reputation.

The serious harm requirement was introduced as “a series of reforms intended to encourage parties to seek alternative ways to resolve claims where the damages are likely to be modest and out of proportion to the cost of proceedings”, said Judge Gibson.

Although this case was in NSW, it’s also applicable to Victoria.

So to answer the question, if you wish to take legal action, you would need to prove that the review caused you serious harm, or is likely to cause you serious harm.

Adam Zuchowski is a disputes lawyer and principal at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

For expert advice on disputes in Victoria contact Sutton Laurence King Lawyers today on 03 9070 9810 or info@slklawyers.com.au.