Judge: Ranting Yelp Reviewer Must Pay Contractor $1,000

It’s one thing to go online and rant about a business that you’ve dealt with, exercising your right to free speech and warning other consumers away from dealing with that company. The problem, one woman in New York City learned, comes when you accuse the enterprise of actual crimes, using words like “scam” and “fraud,” and the company notices.

The reviewer hired a company to refinish wood floors in two rooms of her house. The company advertises affordable work and eco-friendly methods, but she found the end product unacceptable. The New York Daily News shared the text of the first review that she posted on Yelp and on a local news site:

this guy mat the owner is a scam do not use him you will regret doing business with this company I’m going to court he is a scam customers please beware he will destroy your floors he is nothing by a liar he robs customers, and promises you everything if you want s— then go with him if you like nice work find another he is A SCAM LIAR BULL—-ER

She explained to the newspaper that the contractor “destroyed [her] home” for a flat fee of $695. Yet the allegedly crappy contractor didn’t just send the Grammar Police after her: he sued her.

That can sometimes backfire on companies, as we’ve shared in the past. In this case the judge sided with the contractor. While it’s true that another company had to redo the floors, and that the contractor didn’t have the right permits to work in the reviewer’s house, she did accuse him of criminal activity in the reviews.

“Terms such as ‘scam,’ ‘con artist’ and ‘robs’ imply actions approaching criminal wrongdoing rather than someone who failed to live up to the terms of a contract,” the judge wrote.

The reviewer, for her part, plans to appeal the judge’s decision.

EXCLUSIVE: Staten Island woman ordered to pay $1,000 fine for bashing floor refinishing business on Yelp [Daily News]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.