VIC Defamation Claim by Car Dealer

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21 January 2015
Long story short, purchased a second hand car off a dealer in April last year. It's been in for "repairs" under the warranty for 8 out of 10 months and the car to date is still unfixable.
But the dealer refused to take my calls and kept wasting my time and only gave me a courtesy car after I hounded him for one and even then it was a complete bomb.
Fast forward to December last year, I got rather frustrated and left them a bad review on Google, stating my experience (not slandering) and would not recommend shopping with them. However I made this review under an alias I use for my Youtube account.

Today I go into the dealership as they finally decided to speak to me but instead of a resolution I was met with legal letters saying they will sue me for defamation. So I sat there for about an hour and a half while 4 guys yelled at me saying they will bankrupt me and take my house and destroy me in court.

But in the end the dealership owner said that if I removed all the reviews and sent them a letter of apology then they will refund me my money of the vehicle and not press any charges of defamation. However this was only a verbal agreement but I did manage to record the entire conversation on my phone in my pocket.

1. Is leaving an honest review under an alias considered fraud and defamation?
2. Are they allowed to yell at me and abuse me and tell me they will destroy me?
3. Will my phone recording of the conversation hold up in court? I've heard in some cases it may actually be illegal to record conversations...

The situation is dire. I was about to take them to court myself about the car but then they slap me with this and I can't afford a lawyer.

Thank you for your time.


Hi James,

1. Defamation action: you can prima facie be sued for defamation if you have published something about the car dealer as a company (only one that employs less than ten employees) or the owners or employees as individuals that detrimentally affects their reputation. The intentions of the person publishing the defamatory matter are irrelevant. There are however several defences to defamation which will get you off the hook including:
(1) Truth - you have to prove that what you wrote is true before a court;
(2) Qualified privilege
(3) Fair Comment

however with the last 2 you need to prove that your comments weren't motivated by malice and were honestly held views.

2. Its not polite but its not against the law.

3. Generally it is not unlawful for you to record a face to face conversation to which you are a party without the other person's consent.