Man ordered to pay £25k in damages for writing negative online review - why was it so controversial?

The negative review was taken to court (Photo: Shutterstock)

A man has been ordered to pay £25,000 in libel damages after leaving a negative review of a legal firm on review website TrustPilot.

Philip James Waymouth sought out law firm Summerfield Browne Limited for legal advice, and was charged a fixed fee of £200.

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Unsatisfied with the service provided, Waymouth took to review website TrustPilot and left a negative review, according to court documents.

‘Another scam solicitor’

In the review, Waymouth referred to the firm as “another scam solicitor” and a “total waste of money”.

He wrote: “Once they have your money they are totally apathetic towards you.

“You will learn more from forums, YouTube and the Citizens Advice website about your case, for free.”

The firm, taking legal action against the review, stated that the review was untrue and that it had experienced a drop in business enquiries as a result of its publication.

Master David Cook said: “In my judgement it is beyond any dispute that the words complained of had a clear tendency to put people off dealing with the Claimant firm.

“It is difficult to conclude that the Defendant had any other purpose in mind when posting his review.”

‘Charged £25,000 in libel damages’

Master Cook said: “In the circumstances I am satisfied that an award of general damages in the sum of £25,000 would adequately reflect the seriousness of the defamation, the financial loss which has occurred and the purpose of vindication.”

Master Cook added that TrustPilot will be ordered to remove the “defamatory review”.

“It is not in the public interest for misleading and inaccurate information of this kind to be published on a consumer review website.

“In these circumstances a permanent injunction requiring the removal of the review and restraining [the Defendant] from re-publishing it is both reasonable and appropriate,” Master Cook said.

‘We strongly oppose the use of legal action against reviewers’

The Summerfield Browne Limited page on the TrustPilot website has been temporarily closed for new reviews following an influx of one star reviews left in support of Waymouth.

An alert from TrustPilot says: “Please be aware that this business has taken legal action against a consumer for a review left on this profile.

“We strongly oppose the use of legal action to silence consumer’s freedom of speech. As a public, open, review platform we believe strongly in consumers having the ability to leave feedback - good or bad - about a business at any time, without interference.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a business taking such extreme measures against a consumer voicing their genuine opinion. The vast majority of businesses on TrustPilot engage with their consumers or use our flagging tools to report content and resolve their issues.

“The business’ actions have resulted in media attention and this profile has seen a significant increase in reviews that don’t reflect an experience with the business.

“Due to this, this profile has been temporarily closed for new reviews.”