The customer’s complaint: $125 charged by the couple's wedding photographer. The couple felt the circumstances around the additional charge were unfair. So, they took to the social media and local television to air their grievance.
The harm alleged by the business: An astronomical loss of business, after the posts. The photographer went from 100 weddings in 2014 to only 2 weddings in 2015.
The judgment award: $1.08 million owed by the customer to the business.
According to the photographer’s attorney, the couple's negative publicity campaign included the following allegations:
- The photographer was "holding their pictures hostage”;
- She “blatantly stole money while holding pictures ransom and then adding on extra fees”;
- She was “nickel and diming” them.
- Colleagues of the photographer were harassing the couple for taking their complaints public.
This ruling is a sign that the justice system may be used to offset consumer review power prevalent in the social media age. The lesson for angry consumers: take a deep breath before you trash a company online. The first amendment will only protect you so much.
Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate, estate planning and business law in Billerica at 630 Boston Rd and can be reached with questions at hlawoffice.com, 978-671-0711 or via email: James@hlawoffice.com.