A Melbourne dentist has taken defamation action against a patient who posted a negative online review.

Many practitioners seek to use legal strategies to combat a negative online review and preserve their reputation and business.  A claim for defamation is complex, costly and can take years to resolve. Even if defamation is proved, it does not necessarily follow that the court will award very large damages. Further, in many cases, launching a defamation case can draw even more attention to the negative review.

Tips for dealing with negative online reviews:

  • A complaint can be made to the website which published the review with a request for it to be removed if it is false, malicious or violates the website’s policies. You should try to provide well substantiated reasons to request the review’s removal.
  • Consider responding to the review (if the website allows and if it is worth responding to). However, if the review has been posted by somebody whose language and opinions are clearly irrational, or who is a frequent complainer, you may be better off ignoring them. Also note that patient confidentiality and privacy laws prevent practitioners from discussing a patient’s care and therefore limits your ability to respond. Respond in a polite and professional manner, not in anger.
  • Consider responding privately to the negative reviewer to acknowledge the concern and to resolve it. You can then ask him or her to remove the comments or information that you do not like, or alternatively, you can post a public comment on the review website outlining the agreed outcome.