New Anti-Speech Low: Buyer Sued Over Negative eBay Feedback
Ratings are important on eBay. Lots of buyers use them to assess the quality and reliability of particular sellers, and lots of sellers will go to great lengths to keep perfect or near-perfect ratings.
But an Ohio company named Med Express has shown it’s willing to go further than other sellers: it’s willing to litigate. When Med Express got its first piece of negative feedback, it filed a lawsuit, insisting that the feedback be removed from eBay.
Amy Nicholls paid $175 for a microscope light, as well as $12 for shipping. She was annoyed when she had to pay an extra $1.44 in postage due and left feedback complaining about that inconvenience. Med Express asked her to remove the feedback and she refused. The company complained that because it offered to refund her the $1.44, she should have taken down the feedback, which had the potential to hurt its business. (In the past six months, Med Express has 142 pieces of positive feedback and only one negative review.)
Med Express sued, but the company may regret its decision. Nicholls hasn’t let the issue drop, and she is being helped by Public Citizen’s litigation group. Public Citizen’s Paul Levy wrote a letter explaining why the lawsuit is “completely frivolous” and suggesting he may seek attorneys’ fees if it isn’t dropped immediately. Levy went on to explain that the $1.44 wasn’t the issue:
The point she made in her message to you was that the problem wasn’t the money but the hassle… That opinion might be right, or it might be wrong, but harboring it and expressing it is not a tort. And it is certainly no reason to seek damages, attorney fees, and an injunction. Consumers might well take this sort of bullying into account when they are thinking about whether to do business with Med Express.
For all we know, the reason your client has so little negative feedback might be that it bullies critics by filing or threatening to file frivolous lawsuits every time negative feedback appears, thus inflating its seller rating.