Cease and Desist Letter - What should you do with it?

Last Update: September 16, 2018

So, you've written a negative review about some business or services, and the owner of the product didn't like what they see and they slapped you with a cease and desist order asking you to take down your review.

Or else, they threaten to slap you with a court order.

I know, it takes probably hours and hours of your time trying to write that review, and to take that review down would mean that you would have wasted your precious time...

I get it, but I won't go into the emotions in this post, in fact, I'll share with you what you should look out for when you receive these letters.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Hey, I am not a lawyer and I don't aspire to be one. My only intention is to share with you my cease and desist experience after spending hundreds of dollars consulting a defamation lawyer in Singapore. THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AS LEGAL ADVICE. Also, laws in each jurisdiction will differ. So, even if I said this works in Singapore, this may not work in your country.

Let's be honest, if your website isn't getting any traction and is not ranking very well on Google yet, you'll probably not face this issue.

The problem comes when you start ranking 1st, 2nd, 3rd place on Google for keywords that are related to the business you are reviewing.

1. Remove any copyrighted or Trademarked images

This goes beyond defamation, but you want to try avoiding any kind of potential lawsuit. So, the first step is to remove any pictures or images that relate to the business.

2. Is whatever that you said true?

I know you shared your opinion, but are those opinions fact or fiction? If it is really a fact that you've provided an opinion based on your personal experience, and you have a way to back up your claim (although you've never shared it), you can rest easy.

But, if it is just some made up opinion, or an opinion based on someone else's experience, you may need to rewrite your review.

And, if it is in fact someone else's opinion, you may want to link your review up to the source of the information. Before that, make sure that the source of information is accurate as well (You'll have to make your own judgement).

3. Is it defamatory in nature?

Try to tone it down a little. Imagine you are the business owner (if there is any legitimacy in your business), after reading "Your" review, does it make you want to sue that person for defamation because it is just not true?

You see, as I seek the lawyer for advice, after sharing my side of the story, the first question he asked was, is everything that I said factual. If it is in fact true, and I have proof of it, there are no legal grounds for that person to win any claim from me (luckily I do screen recordings whenever I was reviewing a business, so I have proof of everything, even though they change everything single thing about their business to win on their favour).

4. Are your personal assets protected?

It is super important that you keep your personal asset separated from business asset.

If everything goes wrong, and you didn't protect your assets probably, you risk being sued to your last dollar, and you may end up becoming a bankrupt.

So, I would suggest that before anything happen, make sure that you setup an LLC (in the U.S.) or a Private Limited Company (in Singapore or some other countries).

Not a sole proprietor or companies that do not stand as a legal entity.

You want to setup a business that stands as a separate entity. The reason is because if someone manages to sue you successfully, the worst it could get is your company filing for bankruptcy, but your personal assets (your house, your car, etc) stay intact.

5. Don't reply to them or start arguing with them

You are not a lawyer, and the more you try to talk to them or arguing, they will your statements as precedence to the lawsuit.

If you really want to come into a common understanding with that sueing party, I would advise that you seek a lawyer to do that for you.

SOME FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW...

1. In order for that party to sue you and take assets away from you, they have to sue you in the jurisdiction you are residing. Meaning, if that business owner is from the U.S., and if that party wants to sue me, it has to sue me in a Singapore court.

2. The first few orders of cease and desist will come as a threat from a law firm asking you to take down your review or face the legal actions (usually 3 of them). Then, the final one will be a court summon. If it comes to that, it would mean that the party does have an understand that they will be able to take you down. So, it could be time to seek a lawyer for advice (although I would advise that you seek it early).

3. Is it worth suing you? So, there a few considerations for the suing party. First, if they are suing you, that would mean that they may want to receive compensation from you, or they just want to shut your entire website down.

Before they get to that, they have to consider if it is really worth suing you. If you are just someone who has little assets to your name, suing you may be a big mistake for them because the legal fees will already be more than what they can receive.

However, if that party really has the capacity and they want to sue you just to remove your article or take away your entire website, without the care of the cost. Then, you might get into trouble.

But, more likely than not, suing you is a loss to the plaintiff if you are just an "average joe". So, most of the time, these cease and desist letters are just a threat, and does not materialize. But, don't take this as an account that nothing will ever happen to you. You just have to be careful, and seek advice when needed.

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firstlearn Premium
Thanks for sharing this important issue Jack.

Derek
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RAFStuart Premium
Well presented important information.
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RichBrennan Premium Plus
Great info, Jack - thanks for sharing :-)
Cheers
Rich
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Sibonelo Premium
I wasn't really aware that such things do happen but thanks for opening my eyes that means I'll have to be more carefully when writing my reviews. All thanks to you
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Happy2Learn Premium
Great advice. Thanks for sharing. Based on your title I would like to add one area if I may please. In my country banking and insurance products are highly regulated and quite often I see members selling these items without experience. People need to be aware different countries have different laws. Thanks.
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JackCao Premium
Thanks for sharing this! I think financial products are highly regulated in many countries. Yes, its better to do some research on your niche and know what you can or cannot do. In countries where niches like financial products, real estates, etc would need you to acquire a license before you can sell the products.
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