|Can you write about real experiences...|
...and lambast a company without getting into trouble...
I recently used the services of a company and paid them a lot of money to carry out a particular service. I was less than impressed with their professionalism and 7 months after the event I'm still arguing with them over their responsibilities and trying to get compensation.
I'm about to launch a new website that gives me legitimate reason to write about my experiences with this company, and I'd like to hear if anyone has any opinion about how far I can push it with mentioning their company name and what I think their shortcomings have been.
Personally, I'd just like to write a 'don't use these guys' article and get it to number one for the keywords that they target and screw them that way. Can I do that? Will I be legally up the creek?
I'm 20,000km away, so physical violence is out of the question.
Cruise through any of the Google related forums here and you'll see your answer.
Thanks for the informative answer Mat. Given that even the Google Dance thread can go to hundreds of posts, I would kind of like to avoid that. But I'll see what I can do with your suggestion.
I was just saying that half or better of all Google related posts I've read lately have been by people who are in some way angry with their google experience. So there is loads and loads of indexed content from these very forums that is skewed towards the negative about a certain company.
Nice in theory, but when you get big enough the standards and practices are a bit different. If you go after a smaller shop they may take it a bit more personally.
I often advise people that they are on the safest ground when they "stick to the facts" but that doesn't mean someone on the receiving end won't dispute those facts and sue.
Tread lightly and ask yourself if the amount of time and energy might not yield a greater return if invested in some other projects.
You see, if jerks and morons "got it" there wouldn't be any, right? If thieves and scoundrels got it there wouldn't be any. If SOBs actually gave a damn they wouldn't be SOBs, right? Nastiness, however justified, often only begets nastiness. If you want to make a SOB pay then sue 'em. Otherwise, campaigns such as yours can go off in all different directions, some that turn around and smack you upside the head.
My advice: Sue if you have cause. All other means of taking matters into your own hands are very dicey.
If you sue and you win you might be in a better position to publish that. Craft a nice civil action complaint, take it go court, win, take a money judgment....Hard to argue about the rulings of an independent judiciary.
So-called "sucks" sites (e.g., widgetcompanysucks.com) can result in litigation. The facts that you know are true may not be acknowledged as such by the target firm; they may have different facts, or may interpret your facts differently.
Be particularly careful about the use of trademarks lest you give them cause to add intellectual property violations to their complaint.
|too much information|
I was on a forum once where someone asked about a particular company. I told them about my personal experience with that company, just facts, and was threatened with a lawsuit. Although I don't believe I did anything wrong, I pulled the post and had to call and kiss some *** to get them off my case.
My stance is to just let people know that you wouldn't recommend them, don't say why and don't put it in writing.
If you really want to do something, try building a competing site to theirs. Become their competition and win their customers by being better than they are. Once you do that, you don't have to say anything negative about them.
Thanks for the responses guys. I have to confess that I really want to take it to these guys so I'm probably not thinking straight about the whole thing.
Webwork, I need a miniature version of you to sit on my shoulder on Friday nights to keep me out of trouble :)
I'm afraid the option of taking them on in business is out of the question. I used them to transport my pets from one side of the planet to the other. They lost my pets, crashed into my car (two hours before my flight), and I ended up spending 3 times as much money to land my pets as I'd been quoted at the start. Because I'm so far away they think they can fob me off (until I get back home *cracking knuckles*), so I was hoping a well placed web page telling potential customers of theirs the truth would make them think otherwise. Perhaps I need to think otherwise too. Thanks again guys.
If you relay factual experience or objective opinion, you can't get in trouble. At the end of the day it would come down to a matter of evidence in a court of law.
You can always use a trademark as a legitimate reference when there are no other appropriate ways of identification. If the trademark is a device mark (i.e. a special type of symbol, e.g. some type of graphical image) yet the company is still known by a name "foobar co.", then it may be a problem if you refer to the company by using the graphical image rather than the name "foobar co.".
Look at www.taubmansucks.com for an example of a website owner who went through a dispute over the use of a trademark in relation to criticism of a company. He won the action in court, and has documented the entire story.
I run two "sucks" sites and the strong laws of the USA protect me. The first one was against a small company run by very powerful people. Well, it seems to have gone out of business but my site goes on. ;) The second one is against a multinational famous for being 'tough and arrogant.' I have already fought them in their own coutry all the way up in the legal system, so they know that writing a threatening letter, that scares about 90% of the 'sucks' webmasters in closing down their sites, won't work in my case. I will see what happens next even though I must admit that chances of making them go out of business may not be that high. :-)
My recommenndation is that if you have facts to back you up and you sincerely believe in what you are writing is true, and if you live in a country like the USA with various activist groups to back you up, you are in good shape to start a 'sucks' site.
However, I must admit that most of the 'sucks' sites need more dedication from their owners to really hurt the companies they are targeting.
PS Don't forget to get links including from directories like the DMOZ.