Internet Defamation: Case Study On How A Competitor Almost Destroyed A Successful Family Business By Posting Online Defamation About The Business And Its Owners And How Was The Family Business Rescued In The 90th Minute

Jeff Clark, a husband and a father to three young children age 3, 6 & 10 has always loved cars. He has been fixing them since he was 12 and has worked in local garages around the Manchester area for many years now.

At one point, Jeff started to realise that there was a lot of money to be made selling parts for up market cars to car dealers and mechanics. Shortly after he married Lindy, in 2001, Jeff started to buy and sell car parts to BMWs and Saabs only. Using the internet, he was buying his car parts from different sources all over the world and rapidly he built up relationships with suppliers across the world and with car mechanics and garages all across the UK.

Jeff then created a simple online store to take orders and payments from his customers and this resulted in a real boost to his sales. His was trading as a sole trader under the name ‘Unique Vehicle Suppliers’ and by 2006, Jeff, through Unique Vehicle Suppliers, became a full time trader in second hand parts for BMWs and Saabs and business was flourishing. It was now the official family business which meant that Unique Vehicle Suppliers generated 100% of the Clark family’s income. It all went extremely well but recently business started to slow down. Jeff put this down to the recession, but now things started to get really tough.Online

One day, Jeff received a telephone call from a chap by the name of Herald Keller, who worked for one of Jeff’s regular suppliers in Germany – the largest wholesaler of second hand Saab car parts in Europe.

Herald Keller told Jeff that his employer was not going to supply Unique Vehicle Suppliers with parts anymore, because there was too much ‘bad stuff’ about Unique Vehicle Suppliers on the internet and that the name of his employer started to get tarnished as well through some of the very negative internet posts. Basically, there was so much negative publicity on the internet about Unique Vehicle Suppliers that his employer started to get concerned about his own company’s reputation through its association with Unique Vehicle Suppliers. Although Unique Vehicle Suppliers had been receiving a great deal of orders through the internet, Jeff had never done anything to promote his business reputation online and had never looked, let alone contributed to any forums or blogs.

Later on that day when Jeff typed ‘Unique Vehicle Suppliers’ as a search phrase on Google, he was shocked to discover the amount and the nature of the material which was written about him personally as well as about his company. Most of the negative stuff came from 2 or 3 websites that were dedicated to UK based second -hand car parts.

The forums on these sites were full of negative comments about Jeff, his business and the quality of the service him and his wife provided. There were false claims that he was a fraud and that he did not deliver parts as promised, despite the fact that he took full payment for them. There were false allegations about the quality of the parts that he was supplying and some comments actually stated that the parts supplied by Unique Vehicle Suppliers, were proven to be dangerous and unsafe. There were pages and pages of comments, describing Jeff in colourful yet blatant language as a con man and his business as a complete sham. Suddenly the penny dropped: Unique Vehicle Suppliers had no reputation left and perhaps this was why business had been so slow lately.

Pinder Reaux and Associates’ dedicated internet law team carried out quick analyses of the negative search results and this revealed that the main 3 websites which hosted most of the negative material were owned either by or on behalf of a Charles Barker. A further research revealed Charles Barker’s connection with a main dealer of a second hand car parts business. In fact, the internet law legal team believed that Charles Barker was the owner of the main market competitors to Unique Vehicle Suppliers and that it was him who created the negative publicity for Unique Vehicle Suppliers, in order to win business which otherwise would have definitely come to Unique Vehicle Suppliers. This negative campaign against Unique Vehicle Suppliers must have been conducted over a period of at least a year. It went completely undetected by Jeff who had been busy buying and selling second hand car parts; not paying attention to his online reputation.

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