I used to be a fan of review sites. I would rarely book a holiday without first checking what previous users had to say about it. I began to have my doubts when we had a particularly unpleasant short stay at an apartment in Greece a few years ago. Think cockroaches, damp, unpleasant staff etc. What was alarming was that there were very contrasting reviews. Some had an experience as unpleasant as ours. Others seemed to have gone in search of paradise and found it! I did begin to wonder whether there was some other agenda sitting behind the favourable reviews.

The well-known Trip Adviser site has had to address addressed this issue although their problem is more about fake positive reviews –

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49605457

In an increasingly competitive legal market, it is no surprise that law firms have seen the importance of online reviews. When I was involved in the management of my former firm, I would regularly look at sites like Trust Pilot and Social Media to see how we were perceived! Anything negative was acted on immediately! This type of consumer research can be useful. But it can also be dangerous…and expensive.

The recent case of Summerfield Brown Ltd v Weymouth  [2021] EWHC 85 (QB) (https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2021/85.html) is an important example!

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/disgruntled-client-ordered-to-pay-25000-damages-for-libellous-review/5107081.article

It started out harmlessly enough. The solicitors gave the client some brief advice and charged a fixed fee of £200. We have all done that. The client then went to Trust Pilot and said – ‘A total waste of money another scam solicitor’. He appears never to have complained about the service or provided any reason for his criticism. This had a negative impact on the firm’s business. They sued for libel.


The client defended the claim on the basis that –