Defamation law intends to balance freedom of speech and opinion with the need to protect companies from unfair and untrue statements. While a person who experiences defamation is entitled to seek legal recourse, what about a company that has been defamed? Companies can sue for defamation in certain circumstances. Not all companies can sue specifically for defamation, they need to be considered an ‘excluded’ company according to the Defamation Act 2005.
What companies are ‘excluded’ under Defamation Law?
According to the Defamation Act, the company must be a not-for-profit company or a small company with less than 10 employees that is not related to any other company.
If the company does not fall into these categories, there are other actions they can take if they feel they have been defamed.
Misleading and deceptive conduct
The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 says that, in trade or commerce, one cannot be ‘misleading or deceptive’, or say something that is ‘likely to mislead or deceive’.
If you publish a statement about a company that is misleading, especially in the case that you stand to gain in trade as a result of your statement, you could be found to be contravening Australian law.
Potentially the most similar to what we think of as classic defamation, a company can sue for injurious falsehood if they can prove to the court that:
- The published statements were false
- There was damage done as a result of publication
- The publication was an act of malice
If you feel that you have been wronged by a company, or if you are a company that has been defamed, consider seeing a defamation lawyer. Defamation Law can be complex and being a company can add an extra level of complexity.
If you feel that something has been published about your company that is defamatory, you might wish to:
1. Ask the publisher to take it down.
2. Report it to the owner of the website or report it to the social media site support team.
3. Seek legal advice from a defamation law expert.