Saturday, August 20, 2016

[Crisis Communications Insight] Can Suing Your Customer Ever be the Right Thing to Do?

[Crisis Communications] Can Suing Your Customer Ever be the Right Thing to Do?

Feline Wedding Studio is in the news again four months after gaining infamy over poorly taken wedding day photographs by their professional photographer. This time, the fiasco with another couple over a sour deal which the couple took to the bridal studio’s Facebook page to voice concerns over what they alleged were unethical business practices. This led to the bridal studio suing the couple for defamation and the couple counter-suing.
From a crisis communications perspective, taking legal action is often seen as a proactive approach to defend your company’s reputation as it sends a strong signal that you have been wronged. This is because legal actions are likely to result in counter-suits and media scrutiny that only an “innocent” company can withstand. Thus, if you sue, the perception is that you are right.
In view of the above considerations, we at CW Fong & Associates believe that a company can and should sue a customer for defamation if the company can conclusively and objectively prove that their actions are above reproach. Sure there will be mud-slinging and “he said she said” comments circulating, but in the end if the Court finds the company has been defamed, the verdict will stand the company in good stead.
In the context of Feline Bridal Boutique, we however do think that their decision is foolhardy. They are just recovering from a recent scandal that tarnished their reputation, they have (from what we can gather online) a history of poor service, and they cannot conclusively and objectively prove that their actions are above reproach. Whatever the verdict, Feline Boutique has already lost the war for perception and if the debacle four months ago did not kill the business, we believe this latest controversy will.
A company suing a customer for defamation is thus not necessarily wrong. In fact, in the era of social media, robustly defending your company’s reputation is a must. Companies should however ensure that the desired outcome of a protected reputation is not destroyed in the process. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees.

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