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Online reviews are a crucial source of reputation building for online businesses and companies, and many customers use them to decide whether or not they will engage your services. It is great when you receive positive reviews from satisfied customers, but you may eventually receive some negative ones. If not handled appropriately, negative reviews can significantly impact your business’s reputation and potentially lead to further issues. Ideally, you should plan ahead and develop a way to deal with negative reviews should they happen – usually by assigning this as part of someone’s job in the business. But, you may not have had this opportunity and you need to respond to a negative review quickly. This article will lay out what your online business should do with negative reviews, and what the law has to say on the matter.

Consider Customer Feedback

Reviews are a valuable way for customers to comment on your business and provide feedback about your product. Negative reviews can be a useful way to identify gaps in your business and give a chance to improve. If you see a trend in negative reviews after you have made a business change, this could indicate customer dissatisfaction.

For example, say you are an online clothing business, and you changed your fabric supplier. Negative reviews from customers about the change in the fabric’s quality would be a good indicator of an area you may need to rethink. If you take on this constructive criticism and evaluate your business practices appropriately, you can improve customer satisfaction.

Act Quickly

Regardless of whether a negative review is a piece of constructive criticism or just comments made in bad faith, you need to quickly respond to them. If the review is posted in a public forum, or on social media, it can reach a wide range of people very quickly and do damage to your brand reputation. So, it is a good idea to have someone assigned to manage your online and social media presence and to have notifications about your business on social media turned on. 

For example, you can use Google Alerts or some other mass media notification service to notify you when people make comments using your business’s name.

When you do receive a negative review, quickly respond with something along the lines of a:

  • thank you for their comment;
  • apology for the inconvenience; and
  • promise to look into the matter further.

You must remain professional and polite at all times, and own up to any mistakes if the fault was on your end. Your responses to negative comments will reflect on your business as a whole, and customers will be more receptive to genuineness and honesty. You should also offer to take the dispute offline, and deal with it through private channels. When dealing with customer complaints, you should also make sure that you comply with your consumer law obligations.

When Can My Online Business Delete Negative Reviews?

It is illegal for businesses to mislead customers about the goods and services they provide. If you delete your negative reviews, this can be seen as misleading customers about the reality of your business. Customers have the right to make informed decisions about the goods and services they purchase, and reviews are an essential part of that process. 

However, you may be able to remove negative reviews in some cases. This is if the review is:

  • harmful;
  • abusive; or
  • offensive.

Here, you can apply to either the social media platform (like Facebook or Twitter) or review site (like Yelp or Google Reviews) to have the review taken down. 

When Do Negative Reviews Become a Legal Matter for My Online Business?

If a review is clearly false and spreading slander about your online business publicly, there are some legal avenues for extreme cases. It is illegal to make defamatory statements to a third party (including posting online) that harm your reputation. This does not apply if the defamatory comment was true, or an honest opinion based on the truth.

For example, someone who lies and says that your app installed a virus on their phone could be charged. Whereas, someone who said your app’s user interface is poorly designed could not.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act is also another online legal option. This law aims to prevent digital bullying, which includes:

  • false allegations; and 
  • repeated online harassment.

Repeated and harassing reviews could be included in this avenue.

However, it is crucial to be aware of context. Negative reviews are seen as a standard part of running an online business, and customers may focus more on your resorting to legal avenues rather than the validity of negative reviews. Pursuing this kind of legal action can also be time-consuming and expensive.

Key Takeaways

Negative reviews are an unfortunate but common reality of running an online business, and you should be prepared for their eventuality. You should have an action plan ready for responding to negative reviews so that you can act quickly and mitigate any fallout. It is vital to respond promptly and remain polite and professional at all times. If you would like more information or help with your business’s response to negative reviews, contact LegalVision’s IT lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.


What do I do if I get a negative review of my online business?

You should consider whether the review has applicable feedback and whether you can improve. You should respond quickly and professionally, offering a thank you for their input and offer to speak about their specific complaint privately.

Can my online business delete negative reviews?

You should not delete negative reviews, because consumers need to see the full picture of your business. They have a right not to be misled, and deleting bad reviews could be misleading for potential customers. You should only delete negative reviews if they are offensive or abusive, and generally, it is review sites that do this.

How do negative reviews impact my online business?

Customers use reviews to help them decide whether to use your business. So, negative reviews can mean that they are less likely to engage in your services. So, it is important to respond to negative reviews professionally to maintain reputation.

Should my online business respond to a negative review?

Generally, you should respond to negative reviews because it shows customers that you are attentive and listen to their feedback. You should do so politely and professionally, and depending on the context and nature of the review, can be a good chance to share your side of the story.

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