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What options do businesses have to get negative reviews taken down?

Here are some ways to remove negative reviews to help keep your company's online reputation clean:

Remove inappropriate online reviews

If you are in business for any amount of time, you probably received a negative or inappropriate online review. You don't have to live with these reviews tarnishing your brand day after day. Depending on where the review is posted, the search engine or website may provide business owners with options to delete negative reviews.

For example, many platforms prohibit the following in online reviews:

  • Illegal content.
  • Fake content (including spam).
  • Offensive content.
  • Derogatory content.
  • Impersonation.

If a review contains any of the above, you can request its removal. Before you do so, check the site's policy for inappropriate content.

Ask the customer or client to edit or delete the negative review

You can ask the customer or client to edit or delete the harmful review, which could help you turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.

Before contacting the customer, consider their point of view. For example, does the review truthfully reflect their experience? Is there something you can do to improve the outcome?

Then, contact the customer, expressing empathy while providing a solution. Let them know that you appreciate the opportunity to "make the situation right." If the customer takes you up on your offer to remedy the experience, you can request that they revise or delete the review.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act states that it is illegal to penalize or threaten customers when they post an honest review. Instead, as with all customer interactions, be patient and understanding. This fix probably won't happen overnight.

What to do before considering legal action

If all else fails, you can take legal action to try to remove the negative online review. For example, if the review violates any laws, you can directly contact the website or the search engine with this information.

Before directly contacting the site or search engine with your complaint, flag the content first. Let's look at how to do this on Google.

To alert the company to an inappropriate negative review, just click on the flag (or three dots) next to the inappropriate review. Google then reviews the flagged reviews for further action, such as deletion.

In addition to flagging, you can also send a Cease and Desist Letter to the poster. If an upset customer is defaming you and your business through online reviews, you can send a Cease and Desist Letter telling them to stop posting and to take down false negative reviews.

How can businesses get fake reviews removed from an online platform?

Online platforms host a variety of fake posts — from fake news to fake profiles to fake reviews. If your business is targeted with fake online reviews, you can take action. Fake online reviews typically are a direct violation of the terms of service for most online review platforms. If you can prove a review is fake, you may be able to reach out to the platform's support to get the review removed.

Additionally, the poster of a fake review can face legal consequences. It is not uncommon to hear or read about businesses suing individuals over defamatory and false online reviews. Doing so, however, can be costly.

Like when responding to negative reviews, you can contact the customer directly to ask them to remove the review, respond to the review, or consider legal action, such as issuing a Cease and Desist Letter.

Can businesses benefit by responding to bad reviews?

When customers leave legitimate negative online reviews for your company's products or services, responding online may have a positive impact on how others view your business, if you do it right.

The formula is simple. When reaching out to a disappointed customer or client:

  • Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention.
  • Offer empathy, and acknowledge their frustration.
  • Ask if they are open to further discussion, or offer potential solutions.

Wherever the negative review appears online, reach out to the customer on that platform as soon as possible after the post. Doing so can help maintain your company's online reputation. New potential customers often zero in on negative reviews first. If you respond to negative reviews in a way that shows you care about your customers and provide quality service, your response to a negative review could be what makes your next sale.

A little sympathy, or empathy, goes a long way in customer engagement. Let bad reviews be a learning experience for your company, and use the experience to try to boost your reputation and demonstrate you truly care about your customer relationships.

Can I sue an online platform or reviewer for a bad, false, or misleading review?

If you are unable to resolve a bad, false, or misleading review informally, or through the online platform, you may want to take legal action. A lawyer can help you understand what rights you may enforce through a lawsuit. Taking legal action is a serious decision and can be costly.

Depending on the post, you may file a defamation or harassment lawsuit against the reviewer. If the identity of the reviewer is anonymous, you may still be able to file a lawsuit, but will need to complete other steps to obtain the reviewer's identity.

The online platform, on the other hand, may not be legally liable or required to take down a user review. Generally, businesses cannot sue online platforms for a bad, false, or misleading review generated by a user and posted on their site. Under the U.S. Communications Decency Act, websites and online platforms generally cannot be held liable for posts written by a third party.

There are some exceptions. If the online platform alters or edits the post, then you may have a cause of action against the website. If you are considering legal action, a lawyer can help you navigate the process.

You can write your own reviews and ask others to write reviews for your business, so long as those reviews are not misleading and disclose the relationship between your company and the reviewer clearly.

The Federal Trade Commission expressly prohibits undisclosed paid endorsements, prizes, or free products, including online reviews. Also, if discovered, the Better Business Bureau may lower your ratings. Consumer protection laws prohibit false advertising, so it may be smart to review any questionable advertising strategies with a lawyer.

Additionally, you may want to check the online platform's terms and conditions before writing your own review, or asking others to do so. Online platforms may prohibit you from asking for reviews, or providing any incentives to reviewers.

Paying for good reviews or removing bad ones can land you in hot water if you are not careful about it.

There is a difference between asking someone to change or take down a bad review after correcting a problem, and asking someone to take down a bad review in exchange for a direct cash payment.

While it is legal to provide incentives to reviewers, those incentives should be disclosed by the reviewer, or be absolutely clear from the context. If you are unclear on how to protect your business when paying for reviews, or negotiating with a reviewer to remove or change a bad review, you may want to get legal help.

If you have more legal questions about how to handle bad online reviews, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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