There are several legal avenues for removing fake or unfair business reviews. These include defamation, injurious falsehood, contractual interference, and misleading and deceptive conduct. Each of these avenues offers a different approach to tackling the issue, depending on the nature of the review and the specific circumstances of your business.
Defamation involves a statement that harms someone’s reputation. For small businesses in Australia, especially sole traders or small partnerships, defamation law can be a viable option if a review is not only false but also damaging to reputation. However, larger companies with more than ten employees are restricted from making defamation claims under Australian law. In these cases a review needs to identify an individual to be actionable.
Injurious falsehood is similar to defamation but requires proof of actual damage caused by the false statement. This legal route is often more suitable for businesses as it focuses on the financial or economic harm done by the false review, rather than just reputational damage. There is no restriction on larger companies making injurious falsehood claims.
Sometimes, false reviews can be seen as an interference with contractual relations. This occurs when the reviewer’s actions intentionally disrupt the business relationships you have, causing you loss. Legal action in such cases requires proving that the reviewer’s conduct directly led to a breach or termination of business contracts.
Misleading and Deceptive Conduct
Under the ACL, businesses are protected from conduct that is misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive. This can include false reviews that paint an untrue picture of your business. However, the conduct needs to have been undertaken “in trade and commerce” so this tends to apply when a competitor is attacking your business with fake reviews.
Each option has its complexities and requirements, but we can help you effectively address and remove false and unfair reviews.