What to Do if You’ve Been Defamed by Another Business

Nov 25, 2020
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Written by Tom Willis

Being defamed by another business can be a shocking and infuriating experience. The rise of popular sites such as Facebook, Yelp and Google Reviews has opened the floodgates for potential defamation claims. Businesses have a unique opportunity to promote their own interests. Sadly, this allows competing businesses to bitterly tear down competitors without substance or proof. We will outline here, what potential steps to take to rectify the situation.

The Law of Defamation 

Defamation involves damaging the reputation of someone. This can take a variety of forms, from verbal statements to posts online. The Uniform Defamation Laws aim to provide solutions for defamed individuals without limiting the freedom of speech. Legally, the key elements to prove defamation include communication:

  1. Understood by an ordinary person as harming the reputation of the plaintiff that is false.
  2. Published by the defendant.
  3. Directed at the plaintiff.

There are a number of defences available to the accused. If there is a honest opinion or telling of some truth, then defamation may not be made out. Applicants have one year to submit a claim for defamation. Damages totalling $250,000 are available as well as costs.

Only small businesses with less than 10 employees or those that are not for profit can sue for defamation. This does not stop individuals within a business suing for defamation personally. In any event, business owners have limited protection of their business reputation. 

Alternate Solutions

For larger businesses, there are other ways to protect their business reputation. This could include:

1. Trying to prevent further defamation

Attempting to get into contact with the business and discuss the reason behind the defamatory conduct may be able to resolve the issue without the need for the Courts. Where the damage to reputation is online, the post should be reported. If it violates the sites guidelines, it will be removed. Removing the post prevents further damage from occurring. A cease and desist letter may be an effective solution in this case. This provides a formal warning to the other business about the legal impacts of their actions should they continue.

2. The tort of injurious falsehood

Where there has been a false statement posted that has caused actual damage to the business, this tort will apply. This may apply where defamation may have been proved under the uniform laws, but your business has more than 10 employees.

3. Seek relief for Misleading and Deceptive Conduct

A claim in consumer law for misleading and deceptive conduct may be available under section 18 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth). This may arise where there has been conduct that has or is likely to mislead or deceive in trade or commerce. This broad provision is available to both consumers and businesses alike to account for defamatory conduct. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, there are multiple avenues you can take if you have been defamed by another business. Consulting a legal professional where damage to your business reputation has occurred is the most important step you can take. A business lawyer would be able to advise on the prospects of success under these actions outlined above. In the meantime, business owners should look to mitigate the defamation from the source where possible and avoid any form of retaliation to best rectify the damage done.

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