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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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An architecture company I used are threatening to sue me. I

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An architecture company I used are threatening to sue me for defamation. I left three online views (all based around facts during my dealings with them). This was my review:
'My experience with this company was not good at all. I wanted a home extension done and the fee was, I thought, initially £990 + VAT for the whole process. They didn't initially make me aware that this fee was just for stage 1. It was a fixed price quote so I reasonably assumed that would cover all planning and regulations required. This didn't include a planning fee payable to the council for around £86 which is fine and standard. However, I was then told that stage 2 was also £990 + VAT for building regulations (many other architect quotes, in fact all of the others I've received since, include this in their quote). Urbanist Architecture did not lay down all of the fees involved at the very start for me (despite me requesting this). So, if I went through them, the total I'd pay for all planning and building regulations, including fees payable to the council, was going to be over £3k...treble what I was initially told. Put it down to bad communication or incompetence - they didn't provide me with a good service at all. Very disappointed. If you are going to use this company make sure you get a full schedule of all costs at all stages.'
They've emailed me yesterday and said:
'Our solicitors have strongly advised our company to pursue legal action and have said that the reviews left have caused damage to our business over lost work opportunities thus causing harm to the reputation of the company despite having positive feedback from 100s of clients.
Our accounts department has started assessing to find out whether your review has been resulting in our company's revenue drop.
We are kindly asking you to remove your reviews in the next 48 hours. Otherwise, we will be left with no choice but instruct our solicitors to pursue with legal action. We want you to avoid a potential defamation suit.'
I have removed the online reviews but said to them that I maintain what is included in them is incorrect. As I've taken down the reviews - can they still sue me?

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

How long ago did this occur?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I left my reviews last Thursday and took them down yesterday when I received the email.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Sorry, last paragraph of my question should read 'I have removed the online reviews but said to them that I maintain what is included in them is correct. As I've taken down the reviews - can they still sue me?

OK thank you, ***** ***** it with me. I am in court today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you.

Many thanks for your patience. Defamation claims are usually extremely difficult to pursue. Many people are intent on suing for defamation without having any appreciation of the law behind them, so I will try and clear things up for you now.

First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are:

1. The statement has to be untrue.
2. It must directly identify the complainant.
3. It must have been published, usually communicated to at least another person.
4. It must be in a form of words, which would tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of ‘right thinking members of society generally', expose the claimant to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or cause the claimant to be shunned or avoided.
5. Its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.

So your comments need to have been untrue, if they are factually correct and you can show that this is the case then regardless of whether it makes them look bad or affects their reputation, this will not be defamation and they cannot claim.

Also, whilst it may be easy to prove that defamation has occurred, the legal process of pursuing such a claim is extremely complex and expensive. As this goes through the High Court, you would need the professional help of specialist defamation solicitors and the costs are undoubtedly going to run into the thousands right at the outset. Also there is no legal aid available for such claims so the complainant must fund these personally.

You must also consider whether you are able to defend the claim. Even if they satisfy the criteria to prove the statement was defamatory it could be defended on a number of grounds, including by providing evidence that the statement was substantially true or an honest opinion.

So I would say that in most circumstances companies like this one would use these simply as threats rather than because they wish to actually make a claim. It would cost them too much and the end result is unlikely to be satisfactory to them. They just want to remove the comments and stop any further damage to their business. This has already happened so in the circumstances I do not see it getting any further.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the rights you have should they issue a claim, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the information so far Ben. If you could provide the further info on my rights in case they take it further that would be very useful. Thanks

Thank you. As mentioned, there is nothing stopping them from making a claim against you but in the circumstances that would be unlikely and also rather pointless. If they do start the claims process, you should promptly point out that the statements you made are unlikely to have been defamatory as they stated the truth and you have evidence to prove that. You are very likely to be able to show that they were an honest opinion and hat the fact their business may have been affected does not mean it is defamation – showing something is the truth is the ultimate defence to defamation. Secondly, you should make it clear that having removed the statements, any damage to their reputation or losses would have come to an end so the likelihood of them being able to make any sort of claim worth pursuing are minimal. Finally, state that their chances of successfully making a claim are minimal due to you being able to prove the statements were true and if they proceed with the claim and subsequently lose, you will be making them liable for any costs incurred in the process.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks Ben, appreciate the advice.

You are welcome all the best