Negative online reviews can be disastrous for professional people whose livelihoods depend on their good reputations. As a High Court case showed, however, where such reviews stray into libel the law will not hold back in coming to their aid.
The case concerned a senior financial services professional who was the target of damaging online posts which, amongst other things, accused him of incompetence and fraud. The posts were made by a former colleague on a public review website and on another, dedicated domain he had set up himself.
The professional swiftly launched proceedings against the reviewer, alleging defamation and unlawful processing of his personal data. The reviewer was barred from defending the claim due to his non-compliance with court orders and a default judgment was entered against him.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the allegations made in the posts were obviously very grave, going to the root of the professional's reputation. They had come to the attention of his clients, one of whom alerted him to the existence of the dedicated domain. Due to the allegations, he had lost a lucrative job offer.
The professional limited his financial claim to £10,000 and the Court awarded him that sum in damages. It noted that, had there been no such limit, he would, on a conservative basis, have been due £30,000-£40,000 in compensation.
The Court issued an injunction against the reviewer, restraining him from publishing any further similar allegations against the professional. It also ordered the operator of the review website to remove the offending posts. Thanks to the efforts of the professional's legal team, the dedicated domain had previously been shut down.