Many businesses suffer from fake reviews on Google. They are easy to post. But a lot harder to remove. What can businesses do about this? Liability attorney Gea Flapper provides answers and discusses recent cases against Google.
Potential customers increasingly base their decisions on reviews of companies that are posted online – on Google, for example. These reviews can also include fake reviews. Those can be posted by former employees, competitors or individuals that bear a grudge against the company – all posing as “dissatisfied” customers. It goes without saying that these reviews are damaging to the business in question.
In these cases, businesses can ask Google to take down the review, or have an attorney file a summation. Experience has shown that Google often does not offer a positive response. In that case, legal proceedings can be issued against Google.
In mid-February 2020, the media covered a court in Australia which judged that Google was obligated to
The portion of registered capital of a private or public limited company
» Meer over share share an anonymous user’s name and address details. A dentist received a poor review, which took business away from his practice. He wanted to sue the anonymous reviewer for defamation. He needed Google to retrieve the individual’s name and address details, but Google was unwilling to cooperate.
(Injunction) proceedings are also issued against Google in the Netherlands. In November 2019, a tailor succeeded in getting Google to take down a review and provide the name and address details of the individual who posted the review.
This case involved ten very negative reviews of the tailor, which it may be assumed were posted by the same person. It may also be assumed that the negative content did not describe actual events. The reviews were posted with the sole purpose of damaging the tailor’s reputation. Such acts are unlawful.
In the Lycos/Pessers landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that a service provider (like Google) can act unlawfully under certain circumstances by not sharing name and address details with a concerned third party when requested to do so. This can particularly be the case if the following circumstances occur:
In this concrete case, the District Court in Amsterdam ruled that the circumstances showed that protecting the honour and reputation of the tailor outweighed the freedom of Google users to post fake reviews and the freedom of the Internet public to be able to receive those reviews.