The Defamation Act 2013 came into force on 1st January 2014 and it states that:

  1. A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.
  2. For the purposes of this section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not “serious harm” unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.

So what does this mean for small businesses?

It means that unless you can prove that defamation has caused you serious financial harm, you will unlikely be able to claim. It also means that defamation court cases will be be less expensive than in the past because a jury is not required to pass judgement so court cases will be faster.

So does that mean there will be more or less defamation claims?

We believe there will be more claims because they will be less expensive. People may be tempted to take online and offline “freedom of speech” risks believing they are protected. Therefore, some businesses may be at an increased risk of damage to their corporate reputation. It is more important than ever for businesses of all sizes to keep accurate financial records.

How the Defamation Act 2013 affects business marketing

The Defamation Act 2013 is good news for website owners because from now on they will not be liable for defamatory remarks posted by external users or where the author of the defamatory remark is sufficiently identifiable. Also the Act dictates that the complainant must make contact with the author before going to court, so hopefully some cases will be settled before going to court.

So does the Act mean it is safe to allow comments on your business blog or social media page from now on?

We would advise that third party postings be closely monitored so you can act swiftly if a defamatory comment is posted – we know too well the power of social media. To find out more about how the Defamation Act will affect your website, click here.

There are many arguments for and against The Defamation Act 2013. Some believe that it gives more protection to the media. There is no doubt that corporate reputation is the key to business success, and reputations can be destroyed overnight. The good news is that The Brand Surgery can help you to build your corporate reputation reserves, which will protect your business in the event of an act of defamation. Call us on 01903 824229 to find out more.

Vicky Vaughan, Managing Director of The Brand Surgery continues with her Professional Development which keeps up-to-date with the laws affecting marketing your business.