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Consumer Reports: Your Risk When Posting a Complaint Online

You had better choose your words carefully if you're the type who likes to post a product or service gripe online. While you may feel you are simply exercising your right to free speech, not everyone feels that way. Indeed, you could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit, says Consumer Reports.

According to Consumer Reports Money Adviser, some companies and professionals fight back against online complaints on sites like Yelp by suing the folks responsible for the nasty comments. And posting anonymously won't necessarily protect you. The offended party can often still come after you, claims the non-profit publication.

So what can you do to protect yourself and still vent your anger? The first thing is to check your local laws to see if they offer you any protection.

"An increasing number of states have enacted laws barring such legal actions, known as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suits," says Consumer Reports Money Adviser. "The Public Participation Project, an organization dedicated to blocking these lawsuits, publishes information on state laws."

Keep in mind, however, that even if you are protected by your state's laws, you still may get sued. Some companies go after consumers with cases they know they can't win simply to discourage others from posting complaints, according to Consumer Reports. I expect this strategy has some merit since the complainer will have to spend both time and money defending himself even if he ends up winning.

If you still want to publish a gripe anyway, try to be mature about it. Save the rant for your best friend and instead post something that's devoid of emotion and factually correct. Most importantly, make sure your claims can be supported.

Finally, if a business responds to your negative feedback and fixes the problem, post an updated review, recommends Consumer Reports. After all, it's only fair to acknowledge the company's positive efforts.

The Money Adviser article offered a lot of other helpful information regarding online complaints. Most interesting is a list of the best web destinations for you to air your anger.

Do you post negative reviews?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Keyboard 2 image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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