Beware: the negative online review!
A recent dispute between a building certifier and his client has landed in the District Court after the client posted allegedly defamatory comments on
Yelp, True Local and a number of other public business review sites.
The client did not end up engaging the certifier to perform the additional work and the certifier therefore terminated the client’s engagement. The client
proceeded to seek a refund for the portion of the fee paid that related to work the certifier did not perform, namely the 3 site inspections. The certifier
In defending a claim for defamation, commenced by the certifier, the client was able to successfully rely upon the defence of qualified privilege. This allows free communication in certain relationships without the risk of defamation. This situation arises where the person communicating the statement has a legal, moral or social duty to make it and the recipient, that is the person reading the reviews in these instances, has a corresponding interest in receiving it.
The Judge in this matter concluded that the publication of the reviews was reasonable in the circumstances. The Judge also concluded that it should be
understood by the person reading the reviews that the client is giving his own views about his own dealings with the certifier from his own personal
experiences. His Honour decided that it would haven been readily apparent that there had been a disagreement between the two parties, and that there
are usually two sides to such disagreements.