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I wanted to hire service of a hypnotherapist for a personal issue and looked up online in my area and found one based on the reviews on Google. The therapist recommended 10 weeks program and charged few grands for her service. After completion of the program, I felt there's not any bit of progress related to the problem. This made me suspicious, wondering how she got all 5 star reviews on google, I dug little bit on who were these persons that gave 5 star reviews. To my shock, I found that most of the reviews were from her family and friends. I collected sufficient evidence to prove that. In one case she got positive review from another hypnotherapist, and when I looked up this business, I noticed she paid back in return by providing positive feedback to them.

I paid total of $5K+ for her services and spent my energy and time for this without any result out of it. Now wondering what options I am left with. I realize I should have been much careful before signing up for this. Could you advice me how should I proceed next? If it matters, this happened in Seattle, WA.

Looking for advice on how to recover my money in less expensive way. Not sure how much it's going to cost to hire an attorney to proceed legally. I'd like to avoid shelling out more money for this case. Should I first reach out to the business owner to refund money citing the fake reviews. Can that help?

Thanks for any help!

  • Your next step is to get a lawyer, then follow their advice. – Nij Sep 22 at 19:47
  • thanks! Any information on how costly it would be to hire an attorney. Sorry I never had to deal with lawyers before. Wondering what kind of payment model it would be with lawyers. Any recommended options to hire at low cost would be helpful! – Bnr Sep 22 at 20:46
  • What country is this in? and if a federal country such as the US, Canada, or India, what state or province? It makes a difference. – David Siegel Sep 23 at 3:53
  • This is in WA, USA. – Bnr Sep 23 at 4:33
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how should I proceed next?

Try persuading the hypnotherapist to give you a refund. Prevailing against the hypnotherapist in court seems to be a long shot and not worth the attempt. And paying an attorney to tell you this --most likely with lesser detail and not even pointing you to sources of law-- will only add to your losses.

One of the prima facie elements of fraud is called reasonable reliance on the representations. In Elcon Const. v. Eastern Washington Univ., 273 P.3d 965, 970 (2012), this is expressed as "(8) the right to rely upon [the representation]". You will notice from all over the place that this "right" refers to the issue of whether reliance is "reasonable".

Here, the representations are the reviews on Google, and it appears that you will be unable to prove that your reliance thereon was any reasonable.

First, your belated finding that most of the reviews were posted by the therapist's family and friends suggests that you could (and should) have done that same research prior to your decision to spend thousands of dollars on an unknown therapist.

Second, it is not quite clear from your post whether or not all the reviews were 5-stars. If so, that should have sounded too good to be true. Otherwise, the existence of reviews with less than 5 stars should have hinted you about the need to further scrutinize the therapist's deficiencies. Regardless, a decision to spend 5,000 USD based solely on Google reviews that anyone can fabricate is hard to justify in court.

Furthermore, expect the hypnotherapist's lawyer to move to strike or have you waive the therapist-patient privilege as well as to submit to intrusive tests related to the issue(s) that prompted you to approach that therapist in the first place. This means that, by suing the therapist, you are collaterally opening the door to more scrutiny than you are willing to tolerate and which will be reflected in briefs, evidence, and even court/appellate opinions.

These inconvenient factors might outweigh the theoretical protection of consumers that is barely enacted in Washington (or even in jurisdictions with a more detailed statute regarding deceptive business practices).

  • Thanks! Yes, all were 5 star reviews. That was a red flag which I realize now. – Bnr Sep 22 at 21:24
  • You brought up a very good point that business is not liable for reviews on other websites. In this case the reviews are published on the website of the business as well. I guess that would make my case better if I decide to take it to court or even in persuading them to refund. – Bnr Sep 23 at 4:32
  • @Bnr "the reviews are published on the website of the business as well". That pertains to the prima facie element of "speaker's knowledge of its falsity" (see the Elcon Const opinion). But that is independent of the [equally requisite] element of reasonable reliance, which seems you will be unable to prove in court. That is why you need do your best in persuading the therapist without going to court. – Iñaki Viggers Sep 23 at 10:17
  • Makes sense. Any suggestion on what kind of argument I need to present while writing to the business owner(Sorry, if it's too much of help in this forum). – Bnr Sep 23 at 17:41
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    Wanted to add that I have partial success so far on getting back the money. I wrote to the therapist asking for refund as she knew the reviewers personally but not disclosed. At the same time, I disputed one of the credit card charges(This was a second charge done by the business without my consent and I disputed it on this ground). While the therapist replied declining my refund request, she did not challenge the dispute with the credit card company and it was resolved in my favor. I think she passively accepted my refund to not escalate it further. I got back half the amount that was paid. – Bnr Nov 5 at 0:01

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