29th April 2015

My firm started in 1978 and has represented tens of thousands of people.  My partners and I are constantly striving to improve the service we deliver. Client feedback is extremely important.  Fair criticism if justified is entirely valid.  Having spent years at my firm building up and fostering good client relations I very much want to know about any criticism made.

Fortunately (I have just grabbed my wood desk with both hands) we have not suffered to date any internet trolling – abusive unjustified online comments.  Unfortunately many businesses and individuals have. I sympathise with the distress they must suffer.  Not only would such abuse be personally upsetting but in the context of business could lead to financial loss.

I noted with interest a case decided by the High Court in March 2015 – Bussey v Page.  The facts are simple.  The Claimant was a law firm.  A defamatory comment was posted on the Claimant’s Google Maps Directional page implying he was a “loser” and the firm lost a high proportion of cases brought to them.  The Defendant Mr. Page claimed someone must have hacked into his Google account to put up a post.  The central question was would a person have gone to the trouble of hacking Mr. Page’s Google account to post the offending review when a simpler option was to set up an anonymous Google account to make the post?

Mr. Page sought to argue the supposed “hacker” was actually targeting him on the basis Mr. Page would end up being sued for compensation for the abusive comments.  At the time the comment was posted Mr. Page was based in a different country to the law firm.  It is not surprising that the Court rejected Mr. Page’s explanation concluding it was more likely it was Mr. Page himself who posted the comments rather than someone hacking into his account and that person making a very large assumption that the law firm would go to the trouble of both tracing Mr. Page in a foreign country and bringing Court proceedings against him. The claim was successful and Mr Page was ordered to pay the Claimants £50000 to compensate for distress and loss of business.

The moral of the tale – in the modern world most of us use the internet and many of us post reviews for products and services on sites such as Tripadvisor etc.  Comments are not defamatory if they are true – make sure they are true and most reputable businesses will very much appreciate your time taken in providing feedback.