An Australian accounting software developer blames a "severe downturn in sales" on people who bad-mouthed its products in online user forums. It wants a judge to muzzle their comments. The company, 2Clix Australia Pty. Ltd, is also seeking about $125,000 in damages from the operator of the website which hosted the forums. …
Word of mouth (or fingers...)
I fail to see how this is much different from bad-mouthing a company's products in the street, apart from the exposure level (but then again, just because you *have* a forum on the 'net does not mean that everyone will automatically visit it). Fact is, if you tell enough people how bad something is, sooner or later it will start to affect sales - the medium is irrelevant. Hell, if Microsoft decided to sue everyone who bad-mouthed Vista, it wouldn't know where to begin!
This would be the start of a worrying trend if 2clix won, and the fact that they're trying to smack a site down for airing public views and experiences about a product they sell should be reason enough to steer clear of them (hope I don't get El Reg in trouble for saying that!) ;) It's my hope that 2clix will discover the SCO effect - lawsuits tend to leave a bad taste in peoples' mouths.
What next? Sue any review site because they gave your product a bad rap? Where does it end? Will all Web sites be neutered to a point where criticism of any commercial product is forbidden?
What a load of Bollocks
What is this world coming to? In my opinion this 2Clix company should go bust and fade away. In stead of throwing all their toys out of the pram, they should address the issues and problems their users have and fix it. Yet they choose to sue left right and centre because upset users are stating reasons they are unhappy with this product on a forum. I would say it is safe to say that these users tried the customer support of this company first but got nowhere or got brushed off before venting their anger on forums describing their experiences with this product.
Hell, even the company everybody loves to criticise (MS) fix issues and faults users have and believe you me, they go to great effort and expense to resolve problems in their products when this is pointed out by their customers.
I know this isn't the place to mention it, but...
In Sept 12th, 1933 – Hungarian-American physicist Leó Szilárd conceived of the idea of the nuclear chain reaction while waiting for a red light on Southampton Row in Bloomsbury, London.
This lead directly to the invention of Nuclear Bombs.
Now I have to ask - is it any coincidence that Leo's last name, Szliard is an anagram of Lizards. Also, Leo is latin for lion.... the king of the beasts... making him THE KING OF THE LIZARDS!!!
Humans didn't invent nuclear weapons - the idea was given to us by our lizard masters!!
Phew. I know, I know, it has nothing do with with article but what the hell, I think it makes a damn good conspiracy.
maybe they should take the money they're using for lawyers
and hire some better developers?
I can see their point, sort of
"Our company has been trying to implement 2clix for sometime now and we are still in the implementation process and feel like we are getting nowhere fast."
I'd be willing to bet that a lot of their problems are derived from a poor approach to implementing the product. I've never used it, never known anyone that has, but I've been soured on some good products because of the experience I've had in implementing it. In hindsight, most of the problems I ran across had nothing to do with the product, but rather the attempts at conforming it to an existing setup, when it was built for something else. The realization comes later, after you've vented on forums, that the biggest problem was the development and deployment of the new product. You can only modify something so much, but management and a project management committee (thus the problems from the get go) don't seem to understand that. And that was the cause of most of my frustrations.
I'm just playing devil's advocate. A lawsuit is certainly ridiculous, but I can see how they would be ticked off. Just because some of their clients are dumb doesn't mean it's a bad product, it just means they need better sales people to sell the development and implementation of it, as well as the license for it.
These guyz are funny, they just have put their first foot in the grave! I will watch my tongue, though, these guyz might end up suing me! Seriously, I think this was a very bad move indeed - they cannot win this!
@What a load of Bollocks Author
>Hell, even the company everybody loves to criticise (MS) fix issues and faults users have and believe you me, they go to great effort and expense to resolve problems in their products when this is pointed out by their customers.<
I am no MS lover or hater, I don't use the $ sign, but I disagree with your comment! Have they have been updating internet explorer on a regular basis then or only when competition showed up - and anybody knows ie 5.x-6.x were crap pieces of software that everybody, even MS employees, liked to criticize?
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Imagine if Britain's ISPs decided to do the same thing; the nation's lawyers would be rubbing their hands with glee. Or BT, everybody bitches about BT, but BT doesn't care because it knows that we secretly enjoy being humiliated by it.
Having said that, I remember a recent story in which the CEO of a health food firm was badmouthing a competitor online; there's a difference between users moaning about a service (even if they're misguided) and a concerted attempt to knock a company by spreading rumours, e.g. the long-standing urban legend that fast food company N uses an ingredient that is poisonous to ethnic group Y. The problem is that by trying to crack down on opinion, the litigator inevitably makes itself look like the baddie, which is counterproductive.
Perhaps a company rep should have gone into the forums and dealt with the users' problems in a competent, James Stewart-kind-of-way, thus making a good impression to the silent majority who read through comments but do not post; either by fixing the problems, or by promising credibly to find a solution. If the company can't do that, then the criticism of them is justified.
False and Malicious?
Let's pull apart one of these so called "False and malicious" comments:
"I was put onto this forum recently after discussion with peers, about how frustrated, dissatisfied and ultimately ripped off I feel after purchasing 2clix earlier this year"
This comment deals with a person's feelings. I think 2clix will have have a very hard time establishing on the balance of probabilities that he actually didn't feel frustrated, disatisfied and ripped off. Proving he was feeling frustrated maliciously will be funny however.
" ... Our company has been trying to implement 2clix for sometime now and we are still in the implementation process and feel like we are getting nowhere fast."
Again, 2clix will have to prove that they not only did the poster have the software working, but did it quickly, and made that comment not out of truth, but out of malice.
Once they've proven that for at least one of the comments, they then have to prove that Whirlpool knew that the comments were false, were written maliciously and kept the comments on the site, not to support free speech, but to intentionally cause 2clix financial harm.
All I can say is good luck to 2clix, you've started to dig your own grave. Are you going to keep digging to prove us all wrong?
They should take a lead from IKEA (and others)
I remember a few years ago (it may still be true) a website called ihateikea.com was set up where people moaned and bitched about IKEA. What did the business do? Did they sue, at first they thought about it but then they actually decided to monitor the boards and react to the problems discussed. Wow, what an cleaver idea.
Lets face it, if other companies folowed suit, Orange lawyers would be extremly busy on www.orangeproblems.co.uk (which I happily slagged them off for piss poor service)
Of course those comments >could be< part of a false and malicious campaign by a competitor to try and destroy a company's reputation. It's unlikely, but just because your paranoid doesn't mean the lizzards aren't out to get you...
*Perhaps there concerns were peaked by the slightly naughty behaviour brought to light earlier this week http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/09/11/levitz_digby/ The corporate world apparently likes dressing up in it's mothers clothing and dancing around online pretending to be the amateurs they aren't.
Re: False and Malicious
Hold the phone. If they're saying that the comments made on the forum were "false and malicious," and they're obviously not, if that sample is representative.....doesn't that make their "false and malicious" accusation....false and malicious?
...similar story with Dell and NTL/Virgin
Stifling criticism is nothing new. Dell shut down their forums after negative comments from users, as did NTL (now Virgin Media).
As an NTL customer I used to use the nthellworld.com forums, which NTL canned, it now just re-directs to the Virgin Media portal. A new independent website was set up at nthellworld.co.uk which now hosts the forums instead (and yes, Virgin Media employees do participate!).
Just goes to show: if something needs saying, people will find a way to say it.
Interesting state on word of mouth
If you have a good experience with a product or service on average you'd tell about 3 people.
If you have a bad experience with a product or service on average you'd tell about 14 people.
The trick is, if your software quality and support quality matched the marketing material and the sales patter, people don't say bad things. This applies across the spectrum, for instance if a sales guy says "Hey, its not the best product in the world, you get what you pay for and this is adequate for your needs", and then you purchase it, then you'll feel less ripped off when you realise its not the best product in the world.
As always it's only the lawyer(s) who stand to gain here.
Monitoring the board and fixing the problems is the right thing to do but I guess some 2bit lawyer read the posts first and decided to play the get rich quick card.
Shame on the CEO who listened to the sorcerous words of said lawyer.
Drop the suit, work with your users and your company will benefit greatly for it in the long run. Oh and fire yon lawyer directly into orbit.
Otherwise it going to be painful, as other have said, as this suit will only alienate current and future users.
this only works if it isn't true
How much evidence do they need truth is an instant
remedy for such cases they don't have to prove anything
technical only that they hated it. Poor quality was responsible
for downturn of sales and by quality I mean everything not
just their product. Legal systems have to be able to cope with
this sort of crap if they can't they don't work it's as simple as that.
Who is to blame?
Isn't it always the sales reps?
they obviously sold the customer a square peg for thier round hole, then they took their big fat bonus and wan*ed of to the caribean for a holiday, while the poor implementation sods had to break the news to the customer that it wont do what he wants. so he bad mouths the square peg as it wont fit his round hole. although in fairness its probably an ok square peg.
Not false and not malicious
At least, that's what it looks like to me. People are simply being honest about their experience.
In common with Stu Reeves, I've slagged off Orange about the deterioration in their broadband (since taking over Wanadoo/Freeserve) on OrangeProblems. Is it malicious to complain that you aren't getting the level of service you expect?
This suit should be dumped in the trash at the earliest opportunity.
I wonder if El Reg will be sued for publicising the bad publicity which this suit brings?
Not a very clever software company
You can't even download the product from their website - no thanks...
Making it worse
So all this company have managed to do is draw attention to a forum that most of their user and potential customers probably didn't know existed.
A better plan would have been for them to participate in the discussion to help their users and better understand their bugs.
Every piece of software has bugs and most users understand that. As long as a company is being seen to be doing something about the problems most people are happy.
Not for me
Well I'd never heard of them until I read this article. Although it's unlikely, if I ever need some accountancy software in the future, I won't buy it from 2clix. I don't like people who sue forum owners. I think forums are good because they let you express your opinions.
(it's just occurred to me that this would be a great opportunity to push my own accountancy software, but I haven't written any.)
Orange and Lawyers should be taken out the back and shot through the head
I know how bad the problems are with Orange broadband and when I used the boards on www.orangeproblems.co.uk to express my lack of a reliable service or in fact any sort of bloody service most of the time. My mum had a phone call a day after I had posted and it was from a bully boy lawyer in the employ of Orange who informed her if her son-thats me by the way-didnt not desist from commenting on their Pi-- poor 2bit service on the www.orangeproblems.co.uk website they would suspend her service and account forever-which actually done us a favour as then my lazy bone idle mother would have been forced to quit carping about the crap Orange service they rip her off for each and every month and find a decent broadband supplier
It can only go downhill from here.
Here's a crazy idea; deal with customer issues and aim to provide a quality product!
If they win, this will do nothing but enable every unscrupulous tradesman on the Internet the ability to shut up anyone who badmouths them. Imagine the consequences. Net reviews would be rendered useless, customers would be buying blindly from anyone who had the backing to appear legit. I can see the 419ers rubbing their hands together.
Good businesses develop because of their strong attitude towards customer service and their desire to fulfill customer needs. This leads to customers recommending the product or service and strengthens the company. Bad companies gain bad reps and in doing so lose business - fewer people are getting ripped off.
The truth will set you free
I don't think they can prosecute for someone telling the truth and discussing the shortcomings of software. If it is blatant misrepresentation that is another story but actual findings and experiences cannot be prosecuted. If they could, as a developer and evaluator of software, I would be under the jail by now.
Still need protection against cunning plots
If you whinge about a massive monopoly like MS or BT it makes little or no difference to their sales. If someone whinges on a Forum about a product that has loads of competitors, where it's easy to switch buying decisions, it can hurt.
Perhaps the court should order that the complainers reveal their identities to the complained-about and have it verified that there was no cunning plot to diss a competitor. A forum post that goes on about 'feelings' could indeed be a cunning plot as it evades the law on libel.
RE: Have you ever used El Reg?
If you deal in tech news at all, I would avoid it. ... and don't get me started on the "IT" coverage - what a joke. Nothing but Lizard Army and Paris Hilton stories.
I was put onto the comments forum recently, but my peer's input isn't much better. Very little information content; just incendiary comments about global warming, "evilution" vs creationism, Mac Bashing and PS3/XBox360 Wii-ing matches. In the few instances when they are intelligible, comments tend to be mostly tongue-in-cheek.
I can't describe how frustrated, dissatisfied and ultimately ripped off I feel after reading The Register throughout this year.
Business, not toy throwing
2Clix isn't throwing it's toys from it's pram. It has made a very sensible business choice.
Make a hopeless attempt at suing.
1) You succeed.
2) You fail, at which point the company starts going downhill forcing the need for it to be sold. Company sells and the upper echelons of management get golden handshakes.
An easy way to avoid this kind of problem
..is not to write shite software.
Lame excuses for bad product.
Its and absurd suit.
And If one forums "malicious complaints" could kill a product, The Register alone should have driven Apple out of business. But it looks to be thriving from here.
I hope you keep us up to date on this suit, I'm sure it will be the funniest thing since SCO.
Sensible people learn to ignore the web's background noise of uncivil and uninformed commentary. The aggrandizing or maligning of Apple, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, nVidia, ATI, Linux, etc is almost never written by someone with any technical savy.
The judge should make the company fix their damn software
The judge should order the company to make every person who posted happy/get their software working or refund their purchase price.
Passing the blame
Slight point of legalese and annoyance here, but how does 2clix intend to show that this material, if malicious, has actually caused them damage to the tune that they're alleging?
I mean really, it couldn't be poor management strategies (shot in the dark here, oops, I might have hit a lawyer), simple economics of the business sector, poor competitiveness of the company, statistical anomaly, etc. ad nauseum.
What I'm getting at here is that it seems as though the management at 2clix is trying to make a sort of scapegoat to explain flagging numbers. But that's my opinion here.
It's possible that it might be posted by a competitor, might be malicious, might have directly affected an approximate 700k deal, might actually not be individual opinions or experiences. I don't have all the facts here, but on the surface, it looks pretty sketchy.
Many businesses have misguided priorities -- for every 100 dollars spent marketing, only 10 dollars gets spent on developing the product and 1 dollar on making sure it really DOES what the customer wants. I've no experience, but 2clix might well be one of them.
I'm pretty sure that if most of those businesses were to halve their promotions budget and put all of the savings into getting the product right, keeping it right and helping people use it properly they would reap the benefits in increased sales and find they didn't need the other half of the promotions budget anyway.
But no, as soon as the accountants get involved they try their hardest to save a few percent in development and a few percent in support, and then double the promotions budget when you start losing the old established customers.
Or, if you're particularly insane, you double the budget of the lawyers and let them sue for a bit of what seems to be absolutely fair comment -- thereby instantly bringing the company's incompetence to the attention of thousands of people who hadn't even heard of the company before.
Oh yes, all publicity is good publicity, isn't it? Somehow, I suspect definitely not in this particular case.
A long time ago, our major government body had a visit from a large software mob. From being the best thing since sliced bread, according to the sales people, this monstrosity became living hell for all those who needed the basics to get their job done.
If anyone has a spare quid, Whirlpool is under attack for a candid assessment of a product, and honest forums can save thousands on making a decision, helping out is a good investment.
None of the Whilrpool staff are paid and give their time freely.
I'm not a lawyer, but...
under Australian "law" these guys will most likely win.
You see, you can be sued in Australia for telling the TRUTH. It's called 'defamation' - if something you say can be proved to financially injure someone (and our "judges" will take anything as proof, especially teh Internets) even if true, then you can be held liable for damages.
Say you are a reporter and find that a high-profile citizen once had a murder rap under a previous name - you publish, and he doesn't get invited to parties anymore - you would be liable for his financial "damages", and will most likely wake up to find your arse sued right off. If the said ex-murderer has a bigger lawyer than you, you're done for.
Sad, but true. Australian companies, especially the dodgy ones, use this ploy ALL THE TIME to clam up complaints and competition, and they get away with it all the time.
Again, Vizini is correct "Australia is peopled entirely by criminals" Especially our judges & magistrates, if you follow our news regularly.
Mind you, would you trust a company with a name like 2Clix? How far would you trust it? :-)
The lawsuit is definately giving them a lot of free publicity.
Now potential customers will associate 2Clix with lawsuits against the "hordes" of people complaining about their products.
Unfortunately Adrian is probably right...
Truth is not a defence to claims of libel under Australian law. If you say something bad about somebody you can be sued for damages.
There are exceptions made for "the public good" which figured in another (in)famous Australian case about a food critic being sued for a restaurant after an unfavourable review.
Where this might work out in the defendants' favour is that it wasn't a public forum, and as such actually coming up with a number for damages would be difficult. But we can hope that the "public good" defence is accepted on this one.
Of course 2clix have probably done themselves more damage by bringing the case than was done beforehand. Previously anybody considering their product might *not* have found the poor reviews. Now anybody who hears the name will associate it with shoddy product even if it's actually the best thing since sliced bread.
Adrian has his facts wrong
Quote from the Brisbane Institute
"The Defamation Act 2005, which brings Queensland defamation law in line with other Australian jurisdictions, specifies a publisher has a complete defence to the publication of defamatory material if the material published is substantially true, regardless of its public interest."
As long as it's substantially true, they will be fine.
BTW 2clix did participate in the forums to help people, many posts were deleted due to them being abusive however.
...2Prix has withdrawn its complaint.
Probably going to find somebody else to sue.
Why aren't lawyers volunteered as suicide bombers. They seem to be more dangerous to the real world.