By Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC
“...this verdict will reinforce her attempts to repair her reputation, while also sending a message that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.” Lawyer for vindicated Texas business owner.
A story that has recently popped up online is highlighting the fact that marketplace trust, something BBB holds dear to its heart, isn’t a one-sided effort. As you may know, BBB’s mandate is to advance marketplace trust, we do that by keeping businesses AND consumers transparent and accountable to our complaints publishing process. Helping resolve complaints between businesses and consumers so litigation is avoided is also a big part of what we do.
Back to the story…
A Texas-based wedding photographer sued her clients for defamation, civil conspiracy, and loss of her business. A jury agreed and the photographer was awarded over a million dollars in damages.
At first glance, the couple appeared to have been at the mercy of the photographer who they claimed was holding their precious wedding memories “hostage” over a $125 fee for an album cover. As the story goes they felt they were being overcharged and the fee wasn’t in the contract. The couple then began an online tirade by slamming the photographer on several social media platforms. They even involved layers of traditional media including NBC News who broadcast the story nationally. The photographer subsequently had to close down as business quickly dried up as a result; a successful business she had taken years to build.
While there are much more details to the case, it highlights a need to address the other half of the equation when it comes to building marketplace trust. It isn’t just about what a business does or does not do to inspire that trust. It takes two. The action of the newlyweds has the power to erode the trust that businesses have for their consumers. We need to be good consumers, even if we feel justified in our position. Perhaps this means finding a resolution to a problem before making a national story out of it. Maybe read the fine print of a contract before assuming you’re being taken advantage of, or “held hostage” as claimed in this case. Get a second and perhaps legal opinion on a contract before you even sign. A judge agreed that the photographer, on the other hand, followed the contract as it was written. If the newlyweds let cooler heads prevail, they just might be saving themselves a million dollars.
Social media, and even traditional media can be very big, powerful axes to swing. Lives can be changed around it, often for good as well. No doubt the couple likely didn’t think they would out and out destroy a business, and perhaps it wasn’t even their intent, but it doesn’t matter. We must be careful about what it is we put online because, as we’ve seen in this case, there can and will be consequences within the marketplace, dire ones that affect people’s lives. Have a problem with a business that you can’t fix? Come to BBB, we can help, and it won’t cost you a million dollars.