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There is considerable research which shows that an online review of a product or service can effect, positively or negatively, on a business. If I buy a product or use a service and then review them poorly, or even just give them a 1-star rating without leaving a comment, it is possible that I have hurt future sales. Is this considered a form of monetary damage according to halacha?

  • Why would it be any different than a verbal statement about a product to someone considering buying it? Do you think that would be forbidden? If so, why? – mevaqesh Dec 27 '17 at 14:26
  • Interesting question. But, I think you could ask, moreso, is berating a product lashon hara? I think that if you are giving an honest opinion about something, there is to'elet - good purpose for your action. Not leaving a comment isn't overly useful. So, that may negate the to'elet point. I.e., if you're point is to share something with the public to prevent people from buying a product, do so by stating the problem. Why would you want to just vote down something and not explain it? – DanF Dec 27 '17 at 14:51
  • Possible dupe: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/76682/8775 – mevaqesh Dec 27 '17 at 14:56
  • @DanF maasim b'kol yom, people leave star reviews without comments all the time (maybe they're just super busy?). To be clear though my question is not about lashon hara, it is only about causing financial damage – rikitikitembo Dec 27 '17 at 14:56
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It appears that this would be considered a gerama (form of indirect damage), for which one would be exempt from payment. Indeed, The Terumat Hadeshen (307) implies that even when one lies and directly leads to someone's loss of livelihood, that he is not liable.

However, that doesn't tell us whether it would be permitted; just whether it would be considered damage, in the classical sense.

It could still be forbidden as l'shon hara. However, if this is done to help consumers, rather maliciously, this does not seem to be l'shon hara, at least according to all these views.

That leaves the question (which may or may not be a part of the OP) of whether it is forbidden for some other reason. It does not appear to be, given that in cases of permitting propagation of negative information about others, which poskim permit when done for a positive purpose, to the best of my recollection they don't mention some other prohibition.

Indeed, besides for being a mitsva of loving one's fellow of oneself, protecting others from wasting money a product or service they wouldn't buy, were they informed of its nature, might be including in "not standing by your brothers blood" (cf. Sefer HaMitsvot of Rambam neg. 297; although this usage is likely an asmakhta, see Sh'ar Mishpat 28).

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In Shulchan Aruch C.M. 380' it is stated that were one to allow someone to damage his belongings and specifies that absolves him of all payments he shall be potur when carrying it out.The Rama refers to an opinion that even when not specified if his words imply that he shall not expect payment that shall absolve him of paying.

{The Rama in 246' 17' brings proof from the aforementioned halacha that should a person tell someone ''eat with me'' and he follows suit he shall have to pay for his own portion as we say that he offered they eat together but at his own accord, to which the Shach in 363' 10' notes that this is in disagreement with the Mechaber who says over there that should a person say to another person ''live in my house'' he shall be exempt of payment.

Being that all of them put together these scenarios as being of one understanding and these cases are definitely an offer rather than a command or a service for the one making the offer, shows us that in our case it is permission which he is giving him to tear his garment and still in all he is potur in some cases, since we say that he allowed him to do it and absolved him from payment as well.}

When someone allows for reviews of his products online it is understood that he is putting himself into hands of reviewers with no way to then charge anyone who hurt them(unless if one deliberately hurts someone when he knows the true value and benefit of the item, where perhaps the permission to review the item did not include such behavior).

We also find this concept in sefer Chafets Chaim Rechilus 9' where the one who was given the task of testing a potential Choson is given full allowance to share the potential Choson's true colors upon completing the test.This too is because of the fact that the p.c. put himself to the test knowing its consequences and payoff.

Therefore we may conclude that there is no issue of mazik here and would not even be considered a geramah to have him obligated to pay midinei shomaim.

  • There is a world of a difference between doing something that someone doesn't want, but that he known is likely, and doing what he specifically requests. (The cases in the Rama are specific requests, just using colloquialisms, rather than direct language). || In other words, in the case of the Rama, the nizak would be less happy if he were not damaged. He wants to be damaged! In this case, however, he would be happier if negative reviews were not posted. Thus, the cases are wholly dissimilar. – mevaqesh Dec 28 '17 at 22:04
  • This too is because of the fact that the p.c. put himself to the test what is a p.c.? || Does the Hattets Hayyim state that reasoning? Even if he does, that still seems irrelevant. There, his goal is for the information to be conveyed. Therefore, conveying the information is what he wants. In our case, however, the seller doesnt necessarily want reviews posted. In fact, the poorer the product (and the more relevant this question is), the less they would want reviews. Instead they want to sell the product, of which perhaps reviews are an inevitable unwanted consequence. – mevaqesh Dec 29 '17 at 3:08
  • A closer metaphor for this would be living in an area where everyone speaks l'shon hara. One might want to live there, but not appreciate having l'shon hara speaking about him. – mevaqesh Dec 29 '17 at 3:11

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