What Can Online Sellers Do About Defamatory Reviews?


Dear Ina,

I would like your readers’ opinion on the following situation and whether they would view this buyer’s review as mere advice or if it is defamatory.

I sold her a knit top that I bought a few years ago as part of the estate of a lady who owned a clothing store in the 60s and 70s. Most of the items I have purchased were old unsold store inventory that had been in storage for 40 or 50 years.

She received the sweater, did not contact me and left this review:

“Shipping was perfectly fine, but unfortunately the ‘vintage’ sweater I received was clearly a cheap, modern generic sweater with a vintage label sewn in. Points for the label collection and find a sweater on amazon that costs you $ 5 but is not it all itches “

First of all, I have been selling vintage clothes for 45 years. Second, I don’t have the time or interest to buy a modern piece of clothing and sew a vintage label on it, not to mention that I would never do something unethical like that.

I contacted Etsy’s Trust & Security department to have the review removed because I found it libelous. My understanding is that reviews are meant to focus only on the product or service – as soon as the reviewer personally accused me of doing something unethical or illegal, the reviews crossed the line and have become defamatory.

Etsy’s Trust & Security department considered the review to be an “opinion” and, since it did not violate Etsy’s policies, they did not remove it.

I’ve read Etsy’s policies regarding reviews, and, true enough, nothing is mentioned about libel or slander. However, it would seem logical to me that a website would not allow a defamatory comment to stand.

On Etsy’s first refusal, I submitted to them the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA), which states that it is acceptable for a business to remove a review that is “defamatory, harassing, abusive, obscene, vulgar, sexually explicit, or inappropriate.” with regard to race, sex, sexuality, ethnicity or any other intrinsic characteristic ”.

In my opinion, the criticism fell under the defamatory category.

Although I discussed this fact with them, I was told unequivocally that the matter was closed and that they would not discuss it with me again. They told me several times that it was a notice and therefore could not withdraw it.

It made me wonder if I was wrong about this, but my common sense told me that even if you keep calling something red when it’s actually black, that doesn’t make it red.

My questions are: Do readers see here a defamatory comment or “just an opinion”?

The other question is: why is defamation not covered by Etsy’s policy when it is specifically mentioned in the Consumer Review Fairness Act and empowers websites to act?


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