Company Targeted in Online Smear Campaign Wins £10,000 Damages

Companies’ reputations matter to them and, when they are publicly smeared, the law is far from powerless to protect them. In one case, a company that was on the receiving end of an online campaign of vilification won £10,000 in libel damages.

The company provided hydraulic hose replacement services and operated a nationwide network of franchises. Following a series of disputes between the company and one of its franchisees, the latter was made bankrupt and lost his home.

Shortly thereafter, the company’s reputation was dragged through the mud in a disparaging campaign carried out on a website and on social media. Painted as a shady business, engaged in tax avoidance, it was variously accused of putting public safety at risk, employing untrained staff and abusing its franchisees.

The company launched libel and malicious falsehood proceedings against the franchisee on the basis that he was behind all of the offending publications. He deliberately failed to engage in the proceedings and, in those circumstances, the High Court entered judgment against him in default. He was ordered to pay the damages and £53,560 in legal costs.