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What action can be taken against this man? (long)

(13 Posts)
lookingfoadvice0105 Mon 26-Aug-13 16:44:59

Myself and my husband have a takeaway shop which we recently took over. It can to our attention that someone had put a status on their Facebook page saying (along the lines of, not word for word):

'I was in shop name in town name last night paying for my food when I spotted 2 rat pups on the floor. I told the staff who swept them up, took them into the kitchen and put them in the bin. The staff didn't seem surprised at all, like they were used to this. Before they swept them up I took a picture which I have sent to the name of local paper. I looked on the council scores on the doors website and they have a score of 1 our of 5! They must have rats breeding in there. I feel sick, never going there again, they should be shut down'

Underneath are 2 pictures, one of the outside of our shop, the other of a floor with 2 baby rats on it.

This has been shared around 550 times. the original status was on Thursday. Being a bank holiday we were expecting to be busy (as normal) however Friday, Saturday and Sunday about a 1/3rd less orders than normal and my husband can home at 9pm last night instead of 3am as it was so quite and the staff didn't want to go home as they would not get paid.

The post this man has put on Facebook is untrue. The tile floor in the picture which is apparently in our shop is not even our floor, we have plain cream tiles on all our floors and the ones in the picture are a beige colour with flecks of dark brown in them.
The score from the council is from the existing owner, we have been working with our local council to meet the requirements needed for a better score over the last few months. We saw her last week to go over the things she advised us and show her we had completed everything she required.
The council are very happy that we have improved the standards of hygiene/completed food safety training/replaced damaged equipment. She advised that in order to obtain a new score she has to come back unannounced and will do so in the next 3 months, she said that if things are exactly as she saw them last week she would have no problem in awarding us a score of 4 out of 5.

We only have this persons Facebook page, first and last name. Is there anything that we can do about this? We have not answered to him or any of the other people who have commented on it even though it is so hard not to. Are we able to take any action and if so what?

Many thanks

AlbertaCampion Mon 26-Aug-13 16:50:33

Sounds like libel to me, but I am sure that somebody better informed than I am will be along soon.

I would take a screen grab of his original post and the number of shares, before he removes it.

I would also contact your local paper with your side of the story, and post your rebuttal of this man's claims on any appropriate local FB pages, with admins' permission.

Rooners Mon 26-Aug-13 16:52:21

God how awful.

Well done for being so restrained. I have a feeling you need legal advice here - what they are doing is against the law, it's defamation - but I don't know who you complain to.

You could contact the person who has put the photos and comments up, telling them to take them down and issue an apology, a public one - or you will begin legal proceedings - or you could get a solicitor to write tot them instead.

Can you consider trying to get a free half hour consultation with a local solicitor?

Rooners Mon 26-Aug-13 16:53:06

Facebook might be willing to remove the posts, I don't know.

WafflyVersatile Mon 26-Aug-13 17:03:59

Dunno about the legal side and would say get some legal advice as you are doing here first. Also I have no business marketing experience whatsoever! So with those disclaimers out of the way....

I'd ask facebook to remove the page as it is malicious.

In the meantime maybe go on the page, all friendly like, Say hello, we have recently taken over the management of this takeaway. The council have unofficially given us a 4/5 and we should have this confirmed within the next 3 months once they make their ratings visit. Link to a picture of your lovely clean floor and maybe point out to them that it is clearly not the same floor as that pictured Maybe not though as calling the page Perhaps set up your own facebook page (get your mates to like it) with some more pics or even a video from the outside of the shop to inside showing a lovely prepared meal and the clean floor. Then offer a 20% discount to anyone saying they saw your offer on facebook up until X date so they can see for themselves how delicious your food is and how hygenic your premises are.

The person will quite likely delete and maybe block you. Keep going until he does. Maybe recruit others to your defence. Put up a little sign in your shop asking customers to like you on facebook. You must keep an eye on the page though as it could backfire if whoever set up this page or others come on slagging off your shop.

Have you investigated the person who set up the page? Maybe he owns a rival company? If not who knows why they would do this. A disgruntled customer of you or previous owner? There was an article in the guardian the other week showing the ratings of loads of places all over the uk. It was quite an eye-opener! He may have seen this, saw the rating then included the pic to 'boost' his 'case'.

WafflyVersatile Mon 26-Aug-13 17:06:03

Sorry I missed a bit there. confused

Maybe don't point out the lie about the floor. Maybe just let them look and see for themselves.

lljkk Mon 26-Aug-13 17:31:01

yeah, I'm on that one. Something like "That isn't a picture of our floor tiles, please come see for yourselves. Perhaps mistaken identity?".

WafflyVersatile Mon 26-Aug-13 17:33:48

Also it just about occurs that it's best not to accuse him of lying upfront just in case his photo is of the shop but at some point in history before the tiles were replaced by the old owners.

lookingfoadvice0105 Mon 26-Aug-13 17:52:28

Thanks for the quick replies.
We will definitely get an appointment with a solicitor, I didn't know that they did a free consultation so thanks for that.

We don't normally have anything to do with face book neither myself or my husband have a page someone we knew let us know. We now have an account as we opened on to look at this post.

I have printed the original post/pics and the shares.

Good idea to contact the paper (only his word says he sent it to them) and invite them in to see us, maybe they could run something for us?

I want to answer him with pics of our shop to challenge him about his pics but will hold off until we see solicitor and see what they say about it. It seems to have stopped being shared now (last share on Saturday) so as much as I want to report it and try to have it removed as the momentum has slowed may be worth keeping it there until we seek legal advice as solicitor may want to see the original/make own records of it?

As I have a list of the people who shared was thinking maybe after seeking advice to send them something inviting them in, with a pic of our kitchen and offering a discount.

I am wondering if I can ask the health and safety woman from the council if she could write something to put in our window saying she has never seen any sign of infestation. As over the last few months she has been several times to guide us with everything that needed achieving.

We don't recognise the man in question, he is quite distinctive as has large tattoos on his arms. We have a cctv with records and stores so my husband is going to make a copy of that weeks footage and look out for him.

It has made me so angry to the point I want to cry. My husband works 3:30pm to 3am normally 6 days, sometimes 5 days a week as he wants to be there as much a possible in these early months to make sure his staff adheres to regulations/everything is clean and as it should be. Not to mention the money that has been spent replacing equipment/extraction fan system which health and safety at the council told us was inadequate. I hope the damage will be short lived

thanks

Rooners Mon 26-Aug-13 18:20:46

I'd be very concerned about 1) making it look like I had something to prove (protesting too much) and 2) what the reason is behind this behaviour.

Do you think this person might hold some sort of grudge against you, or against the previous owners?

Be careful what you do.

LazyMonkeyButler Mon 26-Aug-13 18:26:25

How awful for you sad.

Could it be someone linked to a rival business?

lljkk Tue 27-Aug-13 17:37:03

At least they didn't do this to you.

Mendi Sun 01-Sep-13 08:41:20

I'm a solicitor. I deal with defamation (libel/slander) cases. IME it's unlikely you'll find a solicitor who deals with defamation who will give you a "free consultation". More realistically, you get to have an initial conversation where you explain what you've said in your OP and the solicitor will tell you their initial fee estimate to do a letter before action.

If you are certain that the photo was not of your establishment then you have a good claim for trade libel. The libellous statement has been "published" by being on Facebook and the circulation of it is important as that is what evidences the extent of the damage to your business.

You must take records of this before the post is removed and before you contact the bloke who posted the statement. Print out several copies. Take regular updated print outs showing how many times the statement has been repeated, liked, etc. I would also check Twitter.

When you have this evidence, first complain to Facebook to get it taken down and then contact the poster. Your approach will depend on what you want. Do you actually want money out of him or do you just want to know why he has said this?

Bear in mind that unless you are very wealthy or you self-represent, you will not be able to pursue an actual court claim for this. Legal costs in litigation are extremely high, as is well documented in the media coverage of cases such as the BCA v Simon Singh case, the Max Mosely case etc.

So I would perhaps consider getting a solicitor to write a very robust letter before action to this guy threatening proceedings, but with the objective of just getting him to fully retract the statement by posting a retraction on all the media in which he originally posted the statement. And get an undertaking from him that he will not knowingly make any false statements about your business in future.

You can ask a solicitor up front how much for just a letter before action and to deal with ensuring he posts the retraction(s) and gives the undertaking. Depending on the type of firm, and the nature of the response from the defendant, you should be able to get this done for anywhere between about £400-£1000.

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