Every business owner knows the importance of online reviews. You might love them or hate them, but there’s no denying that they have a very real effect on your business. One of the first things people look at when investigating a business online is the number and rating of the reviews the business has received.
Managing online reviews can be tricky for any business owner, but navigating businesses that seem legitimate when they’re really posting their own positive reviews is an equally treacherous minefield for customers.
Researching the person or company providing your services is never more important than when you’re looking for healthcare services. But according to a lawsuit, Dr. Javad Sajan, a Seattle-area plastic surgeon and owner of Allure Esthetic, posted his own positive reviews online and used bribery and intimidation to get unhappy patients to remove their negative reviews.
Google won’t let you post reviews of yourself on your own Google My Business profile to prevent this exact situation, but what if Google doesn’t know it’s you? Or someone posting reviews you told them to post?
According to the lawsuit, Dr. Sajan allegedly instructed his employees to make fake email accounts and to use them to post positive reviews of the company on Google and Yelp.
When customers posted negative reviews of Allure Esthetic, Dr. Sajan allegedly would bribe them with cash or free services or products to delete the review. Other times he threatened to sue patients unless they deleted their negative reviews.
To prevent negative reviews before they could happen, Dr. Sajan allegedly required more than 10,000 patients to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) before they received their treatments. The NDAs allegedly included language that prohibited the patients from posting negative reviews about the company online. And if you’re wondering what counted as a negative review, the lawsuit alleges Allure considered anything less than four stars to be a negative review.
One version of the NDA even required patients to waive their right to privacy over their own health so that information could be used to respond to criticisms posted online.
Many patients said they weren’t even aware they had signed an NDA. They claimed it was included in a thick stack of paperwork that had to be signed before they could receive their treatment. If they were on a restricted schedule, they wouldn’t have had time to read through all the legal jargon and still receive the treatment for which they had come before their time was up.
Allure Esthetic provides a range of services to help people change their appearance, from the nonsurgical, such as Botox, to the surgical, including gender-affirming procedures. Even minor surgeries have the potential to go horribly wrong and can even be traumatizing. So, it’s no wonder people use online reviews to research their options before deciding where to get their procedures done. It should also come as no surprise that people who had a negative experience at a doctor’s office would want to warn others of the hazards of choosing a place where they had such a negative experience.
Not only is threatening and bribing customers into removing negative reviews unethical, it’s also illegal. Posting false reviews deceives people who are thinking of becoming patients. And in the case of healthcare services, that deception could have dire consequences.
Our Chicago and Cook County libel and defamation, breach of fiduciary duty and business litigation attorneys have defended and prosecuted breach of fiduciary duty, shareholder oppression, and business divorce lawsuits for more than three decades. With over thirty years of experience, our attorneys know how to handle claims of defamation and breaches of fiduciary duties by the executor or administrator of an estate or trust. In recognition of their stellar track record and experience, Super Lawyers named attorneys Peter Lubin and Patrick Austermuehle a Super Lawyer and Rising Star respectively in the Categories of Business Litigation, Class Action, and Consumer Rights Litigation. If you’d like to discuss how the experienced Illinois breach of fiduciary duty attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle, P.C. can help, please call us toll-free at (833) 306-4933 or contact us online.