Strata Wants to Take Legal Action on My Negative Google Review

Had really bad experience with a strata company. Lack of communication and transparency. So we changed to a new strata company after all owners (small complex <10 units) agreed. I still feel unhappy so left negative review on Google. They ask me to remove my review otherwise will take legal actions (Defamation Act). Though I feel I wrote the truth.

e.g. no quotes and no approval. We request quote and want to decide the frequency for cleaning and mowing later. It was documented in EGM notes that strata to obtain quotes. Strata send someone for the work and informed no one. We do not know when and how often services being called and unable to check if it's being done. We feel we received much less than claimed amount. Later we saw the bill for cleaning and mowing is over 2000 over unknown period. After my google review, strata explained they have rights to carry out work without approval (below $2000) as it was agreed in Management Agreement. Strata agent did not inform us such thing on EGM when we asked for quotes. They charged us mowing lawns for $154 each time while the local council does it for free.

A lot of other issues as well. My neighbours can confirm my review is true.

Anyway, just wondering should I be worried? They are a small company with less than 10 people. They have two 1 star reviews with no content pluse my 1 star review. I wrote in details under my real name which probably is a stupid thing to do. What should I do next? Should I go for fair trading instead of express my anger on Google review? Should I seek legal advice? Should I delete my review? I'm based in NSW if that helps. Any suggestion will be appreciated. Thank you.


update 11/06/19

Thanks everyone for your valuable replies. Really appreciate it. I am waiting for an actual email/letter from their solicitor to see if they are bluffing or not, and to what extent they want it to go. I will drop the review if it gets too serious (and leave a short anonymous review several weeks later). Also, I submitted a complaint to Fair Trading to chase details of the expense. I guess that's it for now.

Comments

  • +6 votes

    Have you got a link to the review?

  • +16 votes

    Not a lawyer at all, as far as I'm aware though the defamation law only works if you were lying (among a few other things)? If your review was truthful then I don't think theres much they can do, especially if you have proof that it was, or maybe I should say anyone can sue anyone for anything as far as I understand, but they wouldn't have much leg to stand on. Adding on to that, strata still has to incur a loss of some amount, for example they would need to sue you over loss of money from key clients, they can't just get legal in for no reason.

    I think theres some more info here (though the info is 2015): https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/11/is-it-legal-to-write-a...

    •  

      Not quite that simple. Telling the truth is your best defence but you have to be very very sure they did the wrong thing/s in detail. Whether or not truth alone is enough varies from state to state.
      In Australia, they generally don't have to prove actual loses of specific clients for defamation, reputation damage can be presumed.

      •  

        In Australia, a review site generally isn't classes as widely viewed enough for a defamation case, at least in my understanding. Needs to be in a newspaper, billboard, tv etc.

        • +18 votes

          Holy crap…
          Please OP do not rely on Ozbargain forums for legal advice or you will get the type of crap you see above.
          While giving advice based on ignorance is likely not 'legal practice' within the Act, it probably should be.

        •  

          this is not correct, technically just telling one person could even be defamation - how widely it is viewed / viewable can influence the likelihood of a defamation case's success, extent of damages, and whether it is worthwhile pursuing in court though.

          •  

            @MrFrugalSmith: Fair enough, but the info I have posted in the last post, direct to the defamation act, makes it look unlikely they are even eligible to sue, unless it's a very small company.

            Id still like to see examples of successful defamation cases where it has only been an online review.

      •  

        Thanks heaps for clearing that up mate.

      • +1 vote

        They actually have to prove actual loss or forecast financial losses from the bad review.

        How is a strata company going to calculate financial impact from one bad review? They are all huff but no puff, ignore and don't delete your review.

      • +1 vote

        The truth is ALWAYS enough, wtf kind of crap advice is this?

    •  

      Thanks. I will do more research on that.

  • +2 votes

    Mate, do yourself a favour, be smart and delete the comment here mentioning their name again - you're only making the risk of damages worse telling more people and linking this forum to your real name and location.

    • +1 vote

      Thanks.

    • +21 votes

      Totally disagree. The whole point of leaving reviews both positive and negative is so that others are aware of how the company operates. If the company in question doesn't agree with a review they can respond to the review giving evidence as to what they are done in that situation or to fix it going forward.

  • +10 votes

    They can only sue for defamation if what you wrote is dishonest afaik. If you didn't exaggerate, make personal attacks and lie, you should be ok. They're probably bluffing. IANAL . https://www.slatergordon.com.au/commercial-litigation/defama...

  • +17 votes

    I would write back a letter saying LOL.

  • +49 votes

    Tell them to submit a request and you will sort it out shortly …. and then do nothing like they always did

  • +110 votes

    I say double down - add to your review that they are now threatening legal action due to your honest review of their services.

  • +9 votes

    Defamation is a costly legal process and difficult to prove.

    I wouldn't be worried if your review is accurate & you have the evidence to back it up

  • +3 votes

    Post us the review with all the identifying bits taken out. At least we can then get context.
    It'll all be in the wording, so it's hard to say anything without the actual review in front of us.

    • +10 votes

      Just done editing. Now I have voice recording and emails to support my review. It's kinda boring to read.


      We are not happy with XXX’s service.

      We sent individual defects list to XXX and mentioned on EGM, hoping XXX can help us chase builder to fix them. XXX simply forward that to builder and did nothing afterwards. Months later in the final AGM, told us did not receive any email regarding defects. At that meeting, we agreed to terminate the contract, XXX staff said "alright, that's a shame. As I was going to talk to you today about the building defects and everything, what you do about it …"

      XXX hold the AGM four months later than due and gave no explanation. When being asked about the reason on final AGM, XXX told us because they were busy with other properties and couldn’t fit us in.

      No transparency in terms of expenses. No quote sent to committee and no approval. We request cleaning for garage and mowing of lawn on EGM. They verbally said will send us quotes and start service after approval. It was documented in EGM minutes “One off clean of basement floor, then determine what is necessary after that, possibly every six (6) months. Strata to obtain quotes for basement floor clean”. Then one day we saw someone mowing the lawn, so we asked. He said monthly lawn mowing and garage cleaning, every 6 months to wash garage floor. That's when we know service being called. However, we don't know the start time and frequency, therefore no way to check if it's being done or not. Later after my google review, XXX emailed me and explained in was in Management Agreement that they can carry out maintenance without approval as long as it’s below $2000. No one informed us on EGM that XXX won’t give us quotes despite we asked for it.

      I requested invoice for expense. Strata send me total amount with no actual invoices e.g. “Maint Bldg—Cleaning & Lawns 2,079.00” (Income & Expenditure Statement for the financial year 01/11/2017-31/10/2018). I then specifically asked receipt for cleaning and lawn. No reply. Six months later, after final AGM and we changed strata company, then I know the individual charge for that total amount. The actual invoices from the maintenance company (which does lawn and cleaning) all add up is approx half the amount. For multiple $154 per lawn mowing while our local council does it for free.

      Our electricity account for common area was cancelled without anyone knowing. It is possible XXX did not set up/take over the account properly. So over 1 year we have no account and no electricity bill for common area and XXX didn’t question that. We end up will have to pay back those absent bills with higher price (approx $30 more per week). It is charged at higher tariff as we were not on cheaper plan. The two bills they paid, both have late payment fees. One has opening balance of $726.85. Majority of that should be paid by the builder. Anyway, XXX charged us for that.

      • +20 votes

        Yeah, doesn't look irrational. I doubt these guys can do anything to you. Doubt if this is the extent of it that it'd make it to court.

      • +5 votes

        XXX says NO MORE to cyberbullies like elux!

      • +3 votes

        See my comments at the very bottom. If you have receipts and the accounts don't add up they have stolen money from you. This is a serious offence, and you may be able to take clear legal action against them with NCAT. NSW fair trading is cracking down hard on this industry, this can constitute a criminal matter and the licensee in charge could be imprisoned for such behaviour.

      •  

        One thing I would note is that you need to the permission of both parties to record a phone conversation in most states (assuming those are the voice recordings you refer to). I'd be sure you know you were in the right before you come out with those.

      •  

        Jeez, sounds like XXX is a crap company anyways and you should sue them mate!
        I wouldn't worry too much, your review has nothing wrong.

  • +13 votes

    They are bluffing bullshit artists.

  •  

    Bluffing. Wouldn’t worry about it. If they’re as inefficient and ineffective as a strata company, you’ve got nothing to worry. Just ignore and cease and desist all communications with them.

  • +1 vote

    You're fine. There's no defamation there, you've just written the facts as you see them.
    As long as you haven't made all that up, I'd be pretty sure they are just bluffing and even if they did try to sue you I don't think they'd stand a chance.
    If anything, I would add to the review that they have asked you to remove it and claimed defamation and you wonder how many other people were asked to remove their reviews. (But I would say best to just ignore them and do nothing at all).

  • +6 votes

    Great feedback to the company, there is a lot they can learn from your post. It's unfortunate they don't want it. Poor business skills.

  • +2 votes

    "After my google review, strata explained they have rights to carry out work without approval (below $2000) as it was agreed in Management Agreement."

    This is quite common within strata management agreements to reduce bureaucracy and streamline repairs, so they may have a case against you despite you not being aware of this clause.

    • +1 vote

      Well, the garage is always dirty and we didn't get monthly cleaning. Months later we were surprised there's cleaner after we actually met him outside. At least they should inform us they called service? As it's common in Management Agreement then it's a neutral fact. It's not positive or negative. I feel that shouldn't be classified as defamation then? Though I know lawyer may have different understanding compare with my guessing.

      • -2 votes

        The issue is that you've made a claim which is potentially unfactual and has the ability to negatively impact their business. This can be construed as being defamatory and they'd have a decent case in court.

  • +16 votes

    Leave another 1 star review saying that they're threatening to sue you.

  • -3 votes

    Dont know of any case where a reviewer was sued for defamation.

    However it is Google as the publisher and distributor of that review that could be liable.

    Maybe check thier fine print

    But make sure your published claims are CORRECT!

    As gyrex above pointed out your are in error already so best to pull it down

    • +2 votes

      Dont know of any case where a reviewer was sued for defamation.

      There has been a few and they've been cited in previous ozbargain discussions.

      Google as the publisher and distributor are not liable for individual user reviews.

      •  

        Really??????????
        Then why do they take down OR shut down OR demonitise various posts based on their "screening" criteria???

        Especially on YouTube! Which they own

        Hohum

    •  

      Do you work for a strata company?

  • -1 vote

    Just change your review to simply state the undisputable facts; all the owners in your strata were very unhappy with their service and felt you couldn't negotiate with them so you went with another service provider. Can't get more "don't look here" yet legally untouchable than that.

    •  

      Thanks. May consider that.

    •  

      all the owners in your strata were very unhappy with their service and felt you couldn't negotiate with them so you went with another service provider.

      What if even one owner was merely slightly dissatisfied instead of "very unhappy"?

      •  

        All the owners are very unhappy for sure. Though it's gonna be lengthy process to prove that.

  • +2 votes

    I would drop the review, wait a couple weeks and post another review with anonymous email just saying they are terrible and don't recommend to anyone

  • +1 vote

    Lack of communication

    Well they certainly jumped on you when you left negative feedback! hahahaha Talk about outright laziness or procrastination…….but as soon as something bad happens to them, they immediately become more responsive!

  • +7 votes

    wow i didn't know u can get sued for writing bad reviews… i troll tons of forums with countless personal attacks thinking there are no consequences… what is this? murderers rapists walk free while someone gets sued for a negative review?

    just write review anonymously, delete this one to be safe, make 100 new accounts review bomb them.

  • +1 vote

    Did they actually say "defamation act"?

    Because generally companies cannot sue under the act. It's only individual.

    So if they have literally quoted an act they cannot sue under then you can be pretty sure they haven't run this past anyone with one iota of legal training.

    •  

      Yes. My lawyer friend check that, it applies to company with less than 10 people. Then I asked strata, they say they have less than 10 employee. So in that case, they can sue for defamation act.

  • +3 votes

    Just ask to have their lawyers to make the request.

    That way you can simply delete the review but know they had to pay money for it. But looking at the review you did it seems pretty detailed and providing what you said is true they don't have a leg to stand on.

    •  

      Lawyers charge for every email and letter. I'm sure they would like a chat about the basis for their demand. Then they might like to negotiate whether they would like to provide full audited accounts. Then you can edit the review slightly indicating it is 100% factual.

  •  

    Don’t be scared, like some others have said, call their bluff and don’t do anything. They will have to prove financial loss to sue for defamation, very hard to due for a business like that.

  • -3 votes

    Although I don't like it I would probably just delete it since they already know its you. They know where you live, they probably know what car you drive, they obviously care a decent amount about your review.

    You will probably sleep better with it just deleted.

    There are already 2 1-star reviews, maybe you can add an annonomous one in the future

    In regards to the law suit I wouldn't be worried

    • +3 votes

      Nah, businesses shouldn't be able to intimidate consumers who are trying to let others know of their experience with them. If the review is truthful they're gonna have a pretty hard time proving any defamation occurred should they actually take the matter to court.

      It's far more likely just an attempt to scare you, which says a lot about the business. Their energy is better spent trying to work with the customer to resolve their complaints.

      Rather than remove the review, it's worth updating it to let people know that this is how they respond to negative experiences as well, but that's up to you.

      • +1 vote

        They shouldn't, people shouldn't be able to threaten people, assault people or damage property, but they do.

        It probably is just a threat to get rid of the review, probably wont go any further, probably.

        Depends on if you want to worry about it or not (op clearly is, hense the thread).

  •  

    You can literally sue anyone but hard to prove your ground, especially for defamation

  •  

    So your shady strata company is trying to get positive reviews even though they haven't done the right thing by you it seems.

    I have personally dealt with strata managing agencies and am a licenced strata manager in NSW. Note I am not a solicitor and this does not constitute legal advice.

    It sounds like your strata manager hasnt acted in line with the instructions of the owners corporation (as documented in your AGM/EGM) minutes. Check your agreement (contract) with what powers your owners have delegated the strata managing agent.

    Fortunately the law is on your side, I would collect all examples of when they have acted contrary to your instructions (and specifically anything in writing/email), especially if they are no longer the managing agent, and, tell them you'll lodge an action against them with Fair Trading NSW and the NCAT. The licensing act is clear in regard to how agents must behave.

    Refer to section 191(C) and section 194 of the act here: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/2002/66/full

  •  

    Best thing use a VPN service to create a review so they can't trace it back

    • +1 vote

      I bet someone can still identify the reviewer because the review itself sounds specific. The specifics can ID someone…

      •  

        hello friendly troll and colleague

        identifying something is different from proving it…it can always be written as "i heard about someone who hired these services but blah blah"

  • +1 vote

    Post to other review sites, where you can be anon.

    •  

      They can determine the posters IP address. If they call come from the same IP as the OP's, then that won't help.
      However, if he has ten friends that all post negative reviews, with different IP addresses, different story.

  • +1 vote

    Don't do anything until you hear from their solicitor. Until then, it's some moron talking out their ass.

    Make sure your review is all truthful and isn't over exaggerated - only state facts. You're allowed your opinion, but ensure you're not being misleading or deceptive. Make sure you have evidence to back any statements or facts presented incase they proceed with filing.

    Very unlikely they would file if you're simply presenting facts (any good solicitor would advise against it), but nothing really stops them from trying. Everyone has the right to have a case heard in court, even if it's unlikely to succeed.

    Avoid encouraging others to review and/or submitting further negative reviews as this could be used against you. Instead, leave your single existing review (assuming it's all truthful) and leave it at that.

    Would recommend not naming them at this stage as the actions of others (ie negative reviews) could reflect poorly on your case. Though it would be legal, it'd cause more hassle for you if they did file - you'd have to potentially show you didn't encourage further negative reviews.

  •  

    I have been threatened before for a negative online review. Your best bet is to ask them to not contact you anymore about this. Best to be honest and stick to it then you are safe.

  •  

    I left a bad review for a fish and chip shop and the owners had it removed from google.

  • +1 vote

    I haven't come across a single one strata company which is even remotely decent (lived in 3 different strata in different suburbs of Sydney). It maybe an industry needs an Royal Commission - given more and more strata coming to the housing market. It is a rotten industry full of ***. (dam…the industry gonna sue me for defamation now)

  •  

    Pretty sure there was a law that corps couldn’t sue individuals recently pasted. Few years perhaps 5.

    • +1 vote

      Pretty sure there was a law that corps couldn’t sue individuals recently pasted. Few years perhaps 5.

      Pretty sure that is bad advice.

      Recent defamation case ($120,000 damages awarded to individual committee member)

      Edit: SMH link is paywalled for many, open in a new browser.

      An elderly man who headed the strata committee of a Manly apartment building has been awarded $120,000 in damages after a court found he was defamed by an email from a fellow tenant that implied he was a "small-minded busybody" wasting residents' time on petty matters.

  •  

    Go to the legaladvice or auslegal subreddit, will have better help than a bargain website.

  • +1 vote

    Lawsuit requires effort. You're dealing with S Mgrs. Pretty safe.

  •  

    I would look for another strata company and put it to the next AGM for a change.
    Ask the new strata company to help you get them in place.

  •  

    The irony when the company gets a bad review because they don’t actively respond, but the minute they receive said bad review they want to not only email you but use extra company resources =/

    They sound worse than a school yard bully, please do not give in to their demands.

  •  

    Amend offending review with a statement that you were extremely unhappy with the services provided and would never recommend them to anyone.This is then personal opinion and not defamation when you go into detail you leave yourself open to legal issues

  •  

    An alternative to deleting review, if it comes to that, would be just delete/edit, than repost with 1 star review (and no comments etc) , still with your name there though.
    I would like to see them try to sue for simply choosing 1 of 5 stars in the review. lol 😅
    Note The company in question, is likely in breach of Google T&C , by trying to bully you into deleting an honest review. You could counter by getting them into trouble with google, and you have evidence (to show google) by way of correspondence they sent you.

  •  

    I once left negative review for RT Edgars on bourke street on Facebook. After struggling with me, they tried facebook and facebook removed it saying it is offencive and not according to facebook policies.

    4 yrs since i opened shitty fb now. All fake reviews or non-negatives only.

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