Legal Efficiency

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P19 RACONTEUR.NET /COMPANY/RACONTEUR-MEDIA /RACONTEUR.NET @RACONTEUR 1 i f t LEGAL EFFICIENCY ONLINE: WWW.RACONTEUR.NET/LEGAL-EFFICIENCY-2015 Opinion BUSINESS ADVANTAGE AND LEGAL RISK OF SOCIAL MEDIA T here has been a stampede in recent years for busi- nesses to engage signifi- cantly on social media with their potential markets. No longer is it enough to advertise in tradition- al forms of media – a presence on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or Snapchat is seen as essential to demonstrate engagement with ex - isting and future customers. Massive numbers of users from both a business and private context bring with them their own attendant legal risks. Social media users have found themselves mired in legal ac - tion as a result of threatening, abu- sive or harassing behaviour, breach of copyright, trademark infringe- ment and even breaching the Data Protection Act, while others have been dismissed from employment or seen their businesses suffer as a result of statements made online. HMV faced an online backlash after they took the decision to make a large proportion of their head office staff redundant after the organisation went into admin - istration, not realising that among those receiving their P45s that day was their Twitter account operator, who took to posting live updates on discontent in the office that day, including the marketing manager frantically asking: "How do I take down Twitter?" He was the mar - keting manager – he really should have known both how to log into his organisation's social media ac- count and who was updating it on a daily basis. Social media account security has been a significant issue, with Burger King having their Twitter account hacked by an attacker with a sense of humour who posted nu - merous updates about McDonald's products and services, while chang- ing the Twitter profile picture to an image of the competitor's famous "golden arches". Law Society Technology and Law Reference Group chairman Peter Wright warns of dangers when businesses interact on social media Social media is all about users in- teracting and exchanging opinions and views online, and the issue of defamation has frequently been raised as a result. A dental practice was upset about the 1-star review one of their patients posted on the online comparison and feedback site Yelp. After contacting the pa - tient and asking for the review to be amended or removed, the patient re- fused, resulting in the practice mak- ing a claim for defamation valued at £125,000 in lost business and costs. Meanwhile, guests at a hotel in Blackpool were shocked to see their credit card was debited a size - able fee – indeed a bigger fee than the original cost of their hotel stay – after posting a bad review of the hotel online. Widespread publicity of the hotel, along with legal advice that having a clause in their terms and conditions alleging such a fee would be debited from account de - tails retained following departure from the hotel, might be both un- fair and unenforceable, led to the fee being refunded. However, the number of clients in the service sector who state that un - fair and unwarranted complaints are being made about their services online suggests the issue of unfair online cus- tomer feedback harming a business continues to grow in importance. It is not surprising, given these well publicised risks, that many businesses have been wary of en - gaging on social media. Indeed lawyers are frequently put off from engaging in social media for the same reasons, and legal advice and training on the legal issues sur - rounding the use of social media is not plentifully available as a result. One way that lawyers in the UK have engaged online is through the Law Society's #SolicitorHour ini - tiative, which encourages lawyers from a wide range of practice areas to engage on Twitter between 1pm and 2pm every Tuesday and Thurs - day, and engage with the potential consumers of legal services who are out there online. There is clearly a business ad - vantage in engaging with the mar- ket online, but the clear risks make the business case for organisations having clear policies and govern- ance in place, regulating how they interact online, unanswerable.

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