Dealing with Negative Online Reviews of Your Business

You’ve worked hard to build your small business. Nothing is more frustrating than negative online reviews, particularly if you feel they are unjustified or have been posted in bad faith. You can take several steps to prevent your business’s reputation from being damaged by unfavorable reviews. 

Respond promptly and professionally

More potential customers are turning to internet review sites like Yelp or Google My Business when deciding which businesses to patronize. If a dissatisfied customer has left a bad review of your business, you can act to mitigate its effects. Take care not to respond defensively, and don’t just ignore the bad review. Instead, respond to the user’s negative review by posting a reply on the review site apologizing for their bad experience while offering to resolve the issue. Invite them to call or email you so future communications can be private. If a particular issue is the subject of repeated negative reviews, change your business to avoid prospective dissatisfied customers.

Once the issue is resolved, ask the reviewer to remove the bad review

Once you have gone the extra mile to resolve the issue and are sure that the customer is satisfied, ask if they will remove the unfavorable review from the website or update it to indicate the favorable response you have taken.

Encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews

If your business is working hard to provide a high-quality product or service, then it is likely most of your customers will have a positive experience. A negative review is less likely to damage your business’s reputation if dozens of positive reviews surround it. Allow customers to post reviews by including links to review sites in your business’s emails and on your Facebook page and website.

If the review is fake, threatening, or profane, report it to the review website

Review websites are exempt from liability for their users’ posts under the Communications Decency Act, but many have procedures allowing business owners to request the removal of specific negative reviews. Although there is a high bar for removal, many review sites will delete posts that contain threats or profanity or are fake—for example, reviews written by the opposing party in a lawsuit or a business competitor.

Unfortunately, identifying the person who left a negative review is often tricky, as some users post anonymously. If the review website doesn’t remove the bad review, the best solution may be to post a reply explaining that you could not locate the customer in your records and offer to resolve the situation or even provide a full refund. If the person who posted the review were not really a customer, they would not respond, but potential customers will know that your business is committed to exemplary customer service.

If the negative review contains false statements of fact about your business, consider pursuing an action for defamation.

If your business’s reputation has been damaged by a negative review containing provably false statements of fact, an experienced business attorney may convince the review site to remove it. Further, you may have a viable legal claim for defamation against the person who posted the review. If you think the review contains false statements of fact, not just expressions of opinion or hyperbole, contact a business attorney to evaluate whether you should file a lawsuit.


If you are concerned that your business is being damaged by negative internet reviews or need guidance about how to protect your business’s reputation, we are here to help. Call us today to set up a consultation.

NOTICE: The information on this website does not constitute legal advice. You should not rely on any information without seeking the advice of a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. This website is both a communication and/or solicitation as defined by California Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 1-400. For further information, please click here.