BUSINESSES are being advised how best to deal with malicious online reviews that have little in common with the actual customer experience on which they are supposedly based.

Many self-appointed critics use the veil of anonymity afforded by the internet to condemn a meal, accommodation or goods purchased, when the level of criticism is simply not justified.

The benefits of the internet and social media are extraordinary.

These digital mediums are transformative, not least in how businesses are able to engage as easily with people from down the road or around the world.

With this power to communicate globally comes a level of threat not seen before.

Companies can now be targeted intentionally by “trolls” with the sole aim of harming a business.

Restaurants and hotels are prime examples of businesses at the mercy of their latest online reviewer with potential customers often making one of the well-known review forums their first port of call.

Companies need to work out how to deal with legitimate grievances and those that are manifestly unfair or blatantly untrue.

It is true that a false claim online could be considered libellous. The key is striking a balance between engaging positively with reviewers who have legitimate complaints and standing your ground when you feel badly treated. It is equally true that a public facing business with no bad reviews at all can look suspicious in its itself.

  • Lawrence Morley, solicitor at DMH Stallard