Unfair Ratings title

How do you protect yourself from unfair reviews on the Internet?

Whether enthusiastic praise or exaggerated complaint: we have already illustrated several times that a friendly and thoughtful answer to customer evaluations actually always pays off.

But what can you do if unfair ratings suddenly emerge which, far from constructive criticism, are aimed solely at personal defamation and provocation? Whether out of frustration or for targeted sabotage – cyberbullying through evaluations has far-reaching consequences for companies.

Our blog post today focuses on when a rating is unjustified and what you can do about it.

Impact of unjustified reviews

95% of the online merchants surveyed in a study conducted in 2017 stated that they had already experienced unfair reviews. Especially for smaller shops and service providers who have not yet collected a mass of reviews, such an evaluation can be of great importance. Potential new customers could be deterred from purchasing by the possible damage to their image and sales could be lost. This is often intensified by a loss of visibility, since for example in the ranking of Google, Amazon or Ebay positively rated companies are clearly preferred. In addition, unjustified evaluations, in addition to financial damages, cost one thing above all: time and nerves! Especially when there is a lack of know-how, the continuous monitoring and counter-checking of incoming evaluations quickly strains personnel resources. 

Unfair ratings

Legal basis for the evaluation content

It is therefore important to know which statements are permissible on the Internet and which are not, in order to be able to react correctly to unfair or malicious evaluations.

Who maintains authentic feedback, must now and then also with negative customer evaluations argue, that lies in the nature of the thing. And if the feelings are high-boiled only once, such a review precipitates quite mercilessly – here you should prove intuitive feeling and diplomacy! Because in principle applies: There is a justified public interest in customer evaluations and these are protected by the opinion and communication liberty. But nevertheless there is no fool’s freedom even with online reviews. As a company you possess a so-called corporate personality right as well as the right to the established and exercised business enterprise. The question is here: Where does objective criticism stop and where does business-damaging defamation begin?

The limit of freedom of expression is crossed, for example, when the malicious or malicious defamation of a person (or a company) is clearly recognizable and the focus is no longer on the content-related discussion of a matter itself. In such a case one speaks of an abuse criticism. The facts of „defamation“ are generally interpreted extremely narrowly and should not be confused with polemical, exaggerated or ironic statements. In addition, offensive statements are of course also forbidden in online evaluations.

A particularly frequent form of unfair evaluation is the assertion of false facts. A factual assertion is to be distinguished from a purely subjective value judgement. Unlike an opinion, a fact is „accessible to evidence“. If an assessor makes a statement that is objectively verifiable, he must comply with it even if requested to do so.

Fake reviews

Many companies see the possibility of giving fake ratings as a particular danger with regard to online ratings. Hidden behind fake profiles, the cloak of online anonymity can quickly be misused. In addition, authors of negative ratings are sometimes not angry customers at all, but competitors, ex-employees or so-called „trolls“, people who simply enjoy provoking on the Internet. A fake rating is not permissible, regardless of the content, since it refers to „no actual connecting factors“ and is therefore not protected by freedom of expression.

How do you best respond to unfair reviews?

In your opinion, have you received an unjustified or falsified evaluation? Here, too, we recommend that you first contact the reviewer. It is important that you do not threaten or harass the customer under any circumstances. Even if it is sometimes difficult, they should remain polite and objective even if the evaluation is angry or even abusive and try to fathom the problem together. A personal approach alone can take some wind out of the sails of a particularly angry evaluator and still lead to an amicable solution.

If a contact attempt is unsuccessful, platforms such as Amazon, Ebay or Facebook offer a reporting function via which you can request the deletion of a rating. In advance, you should inform yourself about the different content and behavior guidelines of the individual providers. In your application, explicitly address the specific terms and conditions and describe in as much detail and objectively as possible why the rating is unjustified.

Tip: If you feel that the rating feature of your Facebook account is being abused, you can disable the rating tab of your page at any time.

If your request for deletion is denied, you should definitely make use of the opportunity to publicly comment on the rating. Explain to the reviewer why this review is not justified, in a valid, friendly, and uncritical manner. Each reader of the review can then use your comment to form his or her own opinion.

Prevention with review portals

Many companies are increasingly using specialized rating service providers to collect and manage ratings. This offers the opportunity to protect oneself in advance against fake and inadmissible ratings. For example, if anyone can create and rate a profile on Facebook or Google with a few clicks, a rating portal checks whether the reviewer is actually a customer of your company. Often, a mediation management is also offered, where you can report unfair reviews. These are examined in detail by a team of experts. A conciliation process is no guarantee that every critical review will be deleted, but it saves you and your employees time and effort and prevents the publication of inadmissible reviews.