Technology and social media popularity has made the free flow of information a regular part of everyday life, yet little has had greater impact on the sovereignty and significance of communication. The core function of Yelp, Twitter, YouTube, and other online networks and forums is to encourage expression and free speech.

Unimpeded communication–and expression

Billions around the globe can share and receive information instantly, prompting a world where anyone can spread news and commentary. This results in a robust forum for unimpeded expression and informed public debate, where speakers reach the broadest possible audience and listeners can access anything of interest.

Unfortunately, sometimes frustrated individuals view the minimal restrictions and anonymity of the Internet to deliver retaliation. Comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media can be hasty, impulsive, and easily misinterpreted. It is also now possible to damage a company’s search engine ranking through “negative SEO,” the use of malicious backlinks and aggressive backlink spamming to bury a site deep within search results.

Recognizing the value of reviews

Online reviews are beneficial beyond the scope of consumer advice, heightening exposure, accessibility, and providing what amounts to free publicity. Many top-rated businesses, like Montway Auto Transport, proudly link to external Auto Transport Reviews from their Web sites. Reliable and conscientious businesses recognize the value of all reviews and their contribution to high-quality customer service.

Having a strategy for responding to negative reviews presents a huge opportunity to build consumer confidence, constructively addressing concerns and growing relationships. Even when a review is overstated or inaccurate, reaching out to mediate the situation demonstrates that Montway is listening to all feedback and truly values customers’ business.

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Reviews can link to lawsuits

Consumers–and businesses–have the right to share their truthful experience and air their opinions, but should not exaggerate or misrepresent details. Not every negative review is defamatory. Legitimate and, most importantly, helpful, reviews offer honest, straightforward observations and opinions, not allegations. Lying or exaggerating can land a reviewer, or business, in court for fraud and defamation including loss of business and reputation. Fraud is the false representation of a matter of fact, by untrue or misleading allegation. For example, using epithets, “liar” and “crook,” which convey a factual assertion, if those statements are provably false, or stating a company is uninsured after the reviewer’s claim filed with the company’s insurance has been denied.  Successful resolution of these lawsuits are becoming more common every day, on both sides.

A Florida woman won a 2006 lawsuit against a Louisiana woman who called her a “crook” in an online forum and in 2010, an Illinois plastic surgeon sued several women for online claims of botched implants. Last November, a home contractor filed a lawsuit against a customer for defamation. The judge granted a preliminary injunction requiring the reviewer to remove some of the most egregiously inaccurate (as alleged) statements from the Yelp review. In the world of online reviewing, however, it seems two wrongs don’t make a right. Unfortunately, the contractor had also posted his own negative and, most significantly, false comments about the homeowner, costing him his victory.  A jury ultimately found that while the homeowner had defamed the contractor, his later remarks also defamed her. There was no award.

Limits of free speech

Many people believe that the First Amendment protects the right to say anything, anywhere, or anytime without repercussions. Free speech constitutes the verbal expression of thoughts and opinions before a voluntary audience; false or inherently misleading speech, either in writing or verbally disseminated, is beyond the limits of free speech and may be subject to civil liability. Reviewers should be able to back up any factual claim. Truth is protected from defamation lawsuits, but it’s best not to take a bad experience out of proportion and turn it into a huge drama. Skip the hyperbole, tone down the rhetoric, and don’t rant or vent. Most importantly, false or misleading claims tarnish the user’s reputation and credibility.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that the goal of an online review should be to help others make better choices.

Being one of the top rated companies in the vehicle transport industry is no easy job, but it’s easy to see why. There are many moving parts, but Montway delivers a unique experience to every single customer, from first contact (whether through our Web site, online chat, free instant quotes calculator, or one of our partners) to the point where their car arrives safely at their door. In the unfortunate event that something happens during transport, we have our own specialized support team to help customers understand the next steps and to do everything we can to get the problem fixed. Whatever comes our way, Montway takes the high road, keeping open the channels of communication and going above and beyond to demonstrate our deep commitment to customer service.

“I admit, I’d rather fight than quit/ ‘Cause you can’t keep a good man down.” –Eddie Money