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Virginia Builder Sues Customer Over Negative Yelp Review

By Mike Wheatley | January 29, 2013

yelp_logoReview sites like Yelp are enormously helpful for consumers when they’re looking to see if a business is indeed legit, and such sites can be beneficial for the businesses themselves if they build up a history of feedback from satisfied customers.

But there’s also a downside for businesses, in that just one bad review can have a huge negative impact on a company’s reputation, resulting in missed job opportunities and a subsequent loss of revenue. In most cases, those that receive negative reviews probably deserve them, but there’s always the chance that a company’s reputation can be sabotaged by ‘fake’ bad reviews.

According to one Virginia builder, that’s exactly what happened to him when a customer refused to pay outstanding bills. In an attempt to collect the money owed to him, Christopher Dietz has filed a lawsuit against one of his customers, only to discover later that the person in question had given him a ‘1 star’ rating on Yelp, accusing him of charging her for work that was never completed and also stealing jewelry.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Dietz reckons he’s lost quite a bit of business due to this negative review, but he’s refusing to take it lying down, filing a lawsuit against the woman that he says has sabotaged his business.

Dietz has filed a lawsuit asking for $750,000 as compensation for lost business and harming his company’s reputation, claiming that he’s missed out on many new contracts as a result of that bad review.

Dietz might not be able to prove beyond all doubt that his company has suffered due to the negative review, but his arguments are backed by a recent Harvard study that suggests a one star increase in overall rating can lead to a 5% to 9% increase in revenues. He can also take heart from a similar case last year, which according to Forbes, saw one unnamed company rewarded with a $1.6 million payout after a blogger had alleged it stole money from him.

However, Dietz case is likely to be a tricky one for the courts to decide, as cases of this nature are often very complex. Forbes explains:

“These lawsuits are tricky since they present a conflict between freedom of speech and a company’s online persona. Freedom of speech, however, doesn’t extend to defamatory statements. Since defamation must be based on a false statement in order for the writer to be held liable, lawyers advise writers of these reviews to stick to opinions and truths. If you don’t lie, misrepresent yourself or exaggerate your experience, you should not be held liable.”

Ultimately, Dietz will have to prove that the woman in question was lying when she posted her negative review, something that will no doubt be further complicated by the fact that the pair were once classmates in high school together.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
  • 2 comments on “Virginia Builder Sues Customer Over Negative Yelp Review”

    1. This sounds like a dispute that has gotten pretty personal. I just went and read the review and this is the second time he has sued this client, the first was for not payment of work the client claims not to be completed. She also states he tried to put a lien on her home and that jewelry is missing from her home and the builder has the only other key. Sounds like a mess! Don't most builders use tumble keys that make their key void after 1st real key use? Why doesn't the builder just take down his Yelp profile I wonder?

      1. You have no right to take down a Business Yelp profile. Yelp never takes down a profile even when the business closes. It is another way they extort money out of you. Yelp reviews will follow you around your entire life. It will ruin your reputation. Yelp users can have a fake name and slander you with multiple accounts but you as the Business have to use your real name.
        It is to the benefit of Yelp to never ever take down a business profile. It is there as a sad reminder to anyone who does not bow down to Yelp.

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