Also, if you have ever tried to approach the website owner to ask for the review to be removed you will understand how frustrating it can be.
Generally, a website such as Yelp, Google or any of the other big international sites will not act as a mediator in a dispute over an online review. In fact, often times, it’s impossible to find a person to speak to in those organisations.
Defamation laws in Australia may help you to circumvent the need to contact the website directly by forcing the person who made the defamatory comments to take down the review or post or face being sued for damages. This article explains the basics in removing defamatory online reviews.
So that we’re clear, it’s not unlawful for someone to leave a negative review about the services provided by you or your business as long as the comments are truthful. Therefore, if someone posts a comment on a review site to say that their meal was served cold, that’s not unlawful. It’s entirely different, however, if the person leaving the review makes harmful and defamatory comments about you and/or your business that are completely untrue.
Any individual may pursue a person for making a defamatory comment about them. If your business has had defamatory comments made about it, then in order to pursue a claim for defamation, it must either be a person (i.e. sole trader); or a corporate entity (i.e. a company) that employs fewer than 10 people and who is not related to another corporation. If you meet this test, then we move on to the next requirement.
There has to be a “publication” that is communicated to at least one other person. In this instance, we’re talking about online reviews. Posting a defamatory review online is not only a “publication”, but it is a publication to the world-at-large!
The defamatory comment must identify your business. This identification can be in the form of an explicit naming of your business, or if not named, then may be inferred upon the words of the defamatory material. However, in the case of an online review, it is more likely than not that it will name your business explicitly.
This may sound obvious, however, unless you understand what “defamatory” means at law, it is a hard question to answer. The publication is defamatory if it:
If you are a person or a company with less than 10 employees; and the defamatory material was published to at least one other person; and it identifies you (by name or strong implication); and the material was actually defamatory; then you may have a cause of action for defamation, subject to possible defences outlined below.
The legislation and the case law try to strike a balance between defamation and freedom of expression and, in particular, on the publication and discussion of matters of public interest and importance. 
Because of this, most defamation action relies not on whether there has been a publication of defamatory material, but whether there is a genuine defence to that claim. The possible defences in relation to the publication of an online review are outlined below.
It is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that the defamatory imputations carried by the matter of which the plaintiff complains are substantially true , or essentially true in substance or not materially different from the truth.
For example, if a customer to your restaurant had a bad experience, and they can prove the bad experience, then this may be a complete defence if they recount that bad experience in a bad online review.
It is also a defence under the Defamation Act 2005 if as well as the defamatory imputations, one or more other imputations (contextual imputations) that are substantially true; and the defamatory imputations do not further harm the reputation of the plaintiff because of the substantial truth of the contextual imputations.
In Mizikovsky v Queensland Television Limited & Ors  the Queensland Supreme Court of Appeal said “having regard to the nature of that truth, that is that you‘re a fraudster, there could be no further harm done by also broadcasting that you were a tax cheat.”
It is a defence to the publication of defamatory material if the matter was an expression of opinion of the defendant rather than a statement of fact; and the opinion related to a matter of public interest; and the opinion is based on proper material.
It is important to note that a defence of honest opinion requires all three elements outlined above.
It is a defence to the publication of defamatory material if the defamatory material is proven to be unlikely to cause any harm.
In Smith v Lucht  Moynihan QC DCJ looked at whether the calling of a solicitor by the words “Dennis Denuto” by their ordinary and natural meaning are defamatory; or alternatively, whether the words “Dennis Denuto” are defamatory by way of innuendo. Moynihan QC DCJ decided that the calling of a solicitor by the name “Dennis Denuto” to two other family members was sufficiently trivial as to be caught by this defence.
There is a reply to some of the defences mentioned above if a person/business can prove that the customer left a review with malice.
In order to establish malice, the person/business must prove that, in publishing the material complained of, the customer was actuated by a motive that was foreign, or ulterior, to the matter which has been used as a defence. 
The best place to start is to send a “concerns notice” to the person who lodged the review. A concerns notice is essentially a letter that’s sent in accordance with the requirements of theDefamation Act. It sets out, amongst other things, the comments that were made, the implications that follow from those comments and the effect that they have had on person or business about who the comments have been made. A concerns notice typically puts the reviewer on notice that they are in breach of the Defamation Act, and provides them with an opportunity to retract (or take down) the defamatory comments and to provide a written apology. It also clearly informs the reviewer that a claim for damages will be brought in the event the retraction and apology are not provided in a very short period of time.
A properly drafted concerns notice typically has the effect of prompting the reviewer to remove any comment or review that amounts to “defamation”. A person who fails to heed the warning contained in a concerns notice does so at their peril!
You may have a genuine cause of action for defamation.
 Slatyer v The Daily Telegraph Newspaper Co Ltd  HCA 22; (1908) 6 CLR 1 at 7.
 Parmiter v Coupland (1840) 6 M & W 105 at 108 per Parke B;  EngR 168.
 Youssoupoff v Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Ltd (1934) 50 TLR 581 at 587.
 Defamation Act 2005 (QLD) at s3.
 Defamation Act 2005 (QLD) at s25.
 Mizikovsky v Queensland Television Limited & Ors  QCA 68.
 Smith v Lucht  QDC 289.
 Roberts v Bass (2002) 212 CLR 1, 30–31.
Contact Axia Litigation Lawyers direct and speak with an expert today.
Axia Litigation Lawyers are experts in dispute resolution and litigation.
Contact us today to understand how you can effectively and efficiently reach a resolution in your matter.
After my initial consultation with Axia Litigation Lawyers, I felt the tension and stress fall away. They were both compassionate and understanding of my case and were diligent and thorough in their work ethic.
We have used Axia Legal on two occasions over the last three years with great success and I am happy to recommend Adam Brown from Axia Legal
Adam and staff have been very helpful throughout the whole process. Very happy with the service and final outcome.
Axia Lawyers are an excellent litigation firm that handle cases in a professional manner and pay attention to details. The customer service was outstanding, I would highly recommend this firm.
After multiple attempts at trying to find reliable counsel in Australia to act on an advisory basis to our firm, we found ourselves feeling reassured and feel as though we have gained a solid ally with Axia Litigation.
Axia were competent, diligent and excellent to work with.
Thank you for your outstanding help & I couldn't be happier with the help AXIA have given me.
I have no hesitation in recommending them. They were always very informative and answered all of my questions and always kept me in the loop and well informed of my progress.
The team at Axia Litigation were first class, when guiding us through two consecutive legal matters. We received regular communication, with each of the legal steps explained in full.