What to Do About Anonymous Bad Reviews of Your Business

During a time where online reviews can make or break a business, anonymous bad reviews can be especially damaging. You may feel that there’s not much you can do about them. You don’t have their name or any details to contact them. Furthermore, you can’t even determine if it’s a legitimate review by an actual customer. Many review platforms, such as on Google and Facebook also don’t allow you to simply delete negative reviews about your business. However, there are steps you can take to take down anonymous bad reviews and reduce damage to your business. Here, we’ll discuss what you can do about anonymous bad reviews.

1. Try to identify the review

The first action you can take is to reply to their review and provide the reviewer with your contact details. You may propose having a conversation with them about their review and what you can do to resolve the situation. If they contact you back, you may be able to determine their identity and if their review is legitimate. If they have expressed genuine and reasonable disappointment with your service, you can try to resolve the issue in a way that is satisfactory for the customer. You can then ask them to take down the bad review.

2. Report it

If the reviewer does not contact you and you suspect that they weren’t an actual customer at your business, you can report it to the review platform. Google, Facebook and other platforms provide ways for you to report content that breach their policies. For example, you may report reviews to Google that are ‘fake content’ or an ‘impersonation’ of another person. You can also report ‘content about a competitor to manipulate their ratings’ if you have evidence that makes you suspect this is the case. On Facebook, you can report content is an ‘unfair review’ and misrepresents their identity.

You should try to gather as much relevant evidence as you can when you lodge your complaint. Massive platforms such as Google and Facebook probably get millions of complaints every day. Therefore, they’re only likely to consider complaints that have solid evidence. 

For example, if the reviewer has used a fake name, you can provide evidence that they’ve never been your client. You can do this by providing a list of clients of your business. For Google reviews, you can also go into their Google account to see where else they’ve left reviews. If they’ve hit similar businesses with negative reviews you may wish to highlight this. 

You should note that even if you provide solid evidence, it can take a long time for these platforms to get back to you, if at all, due to the sheer volume of complaints they receive. 

3. Call them out and manage reputation

If you are not hearing back about your complaint, you can decide to simply reply to the review by stating that you don’t believe that they are a real customer at your business. This may notify people who are reading your reviews that this may not be a genuine review.

You can otherwise manage your business’s reputation by asking customers from your business to leave reviews if they’ve had a positive experience with your service. This may help to raise your overall star-rating and make the negative review less conspicuous. 

4. Take legal action

If however, the anonymous review was highly damaging to your business and the review platform has not taken any action against the reviewer, you may decide to take legal action. You won’t be able to take legal action against the anonymous reviewer as you don’t have identifying information about them. Therefore, you’ll have to take legal action against the review platform or the internet service provider. You can seek to obtain a Court order for them to provide identifying information about the anonymous reviewer.

There has been a flurry of Court cases recently that are doing just that. In February this year, a Melbourne dentist succeeded in obtaining a Court order against Google to review identifying information about an anonymous reviewer who left a negative review. The order was also against Optus, for them to reveal the IP address of the reviewer. A Gold Coast accountant, a gangland criminal lawyer, a brothel owner and a gold dealer have also launched similar lawsuits against Google to unmask anonymous people who’ve left baseless negative reviews. A class action may also be launched against Google for publishing defamatory anonymous reviews.

Accordingly, if you do decide to take legal action, there will be enough people who’ve done it before you to make your claim feasible. If you manage to obtain a Court order, you can then use the identifying information to contact the reviewer. If their review was not a genuine one, you can take legal action against the reviewer directly for defamation

The issue is of course, cost. Lawsuits, particularly against massive corporations such as Google and Facebook, will consume a lot of time and money. So, consider trying to resolve the issue by undertaking the previous steps before deciding to take legal action.

Conclusion

Anonymous bad reviews can be especially frustrating, as they can do serious damage to your business while leaving you feeling like there’s not much you can do. While it is indeed harder to go after people hiding behind a mask of anonymity, it’s not impossible. These steps can help you reduce the damage to your business due to anonymous reviews.

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