- Owners of a jewellery store are taking the author of a Google review to court.
- The store owners argue the one-star critique was payback by a landlord over a rent dispute.
- They are taking defamation action claiming the review harmed their business and damaged their reputation.
Online reviews can make or break a business. But what happens if they’re used for revenge?
The owners of a jewellery store are taking the author of a Google review to court, arguing that the one-star critique was payback by a landlord over a rent dispute.
Micheli Jewellery in Moonee Ponds was the subject of the negative comment in October last year, when a reviewer under the name “hassan ramaihi” wrote of their disappointing experience.
The Google review.Credit:Court documents
“The customer service provided was rude and not helpful and when finally receiving a quote for what I was after I found that it was almost twice as expensive to the jewellery store up the road,” the reviewer said, according to court documents.
“I would recommend you shop elsewhere where you can save yourself money and enjoy being looked after.”
It is one of four one-star reviews that pop up when searching for Micheli Jewellery. They are far outweighed by more than 100 positive testimonials for the business.
However, Micheli Jewellery says the appraisal was not genuine and was made by a person with an axe to grind.
Micheli Jewellery in Moonee Ponds. Credit:Justin McManus
According to County Court documents, the review was posted by Hassan Ramaihi, the landlord of an Essendon apartment that was leased to two of the owners of the jewellery store, Elvi and Darren Harris.
The Harrises are taking defamation action, along with fellow owner and family member Marc Salzmann, claiming that the review harmed their business and damaged their reputation.
One of the owners of the jewellery store, Marc Selzmann.
They say Ramaihi’s review followed a dispute over the amount of rent they were paying during the COVID-19 lockdowns, which led to a reduction ordered by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal because of financial hardship.
The VCAT order, handed down in December 2020 and provided to The Sunday Age, shows that the tenancy agreement was halved from $4777 a month to $2390.
The store owners claim that Ramaihi was not a customer of the business and there were no records of him being given a quote.
“The plaintiffs track all quotes and sales via the point-of-sale system for Micheli Jewellery,” court documents state.
“There are no records of Hassan Ramaihi patronising Micheli Jewellery, nor of having provided a quote to him.”
In his defence document, Ramaihi admitted posting the review but denied that it was defamatory. He also claimed the review was true and an opinion based on his experiences.
The Essendon apartment that was the subject of the rent dispute.Credit:Domain
Ramaihi stated that he was given the quote while completing routine maintenance works at the Essendon apartment in November 2019, when he claimed he asked Mr Harris about the cost of cleaning and polishing a wedding ring.
He also argued that the business owners were not seriously harmed by the review, as there were others who had made complaints on Google.
In their court reply to Ramaihi’s defence, the owners of Micheli Jewellery said the landlord had a “personal animus” against Elvi and Darren Harris. The lease agreement ended in March 2021.
Micheli Jewellery claims to have had a drop in turnover of $22,000 in the two months after the review was published.
“Bottom line, he never got a quote from us as stated and used Google reviews as a way to get revenge and hurt us financially,” Darren Harris told The Sunday Age.
“That’s what I believe may have occurred anyway, we will let the court decide if they agree or not.”
The business owners are seeking damages, including aggravated damages, over the review, which is still viewable online.
Ramaihi declined to comment.
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