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The workers of the business are excellent at what they do and lovely people, while the manager is always a mean jerk to everyone. I don’t want to stop going there just because of him but I’m finally sick of it and want to publicise his attitude problem. If I did this on Google or elsewhere, would it be legal for them to then refuse me service without another reason in retaliation?

Further, what other type of recourse does one have in this scenario?

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  • 2
    Seems like the sort of thing a customer would submit a complaint about to the company/owner.
    – Nat
    Mar 26 at 13:18
  • 1
    It is pretty common on eBay to block bad customers from future transactions. I'm sure it's legal (for the given reason). Mar 26 at 21:37
  • 1
    Why would you continue to do business with a company you're dissatisfied with? Vote with your wallet. Mar 27 at 13:32
  • 2
    You could buy the company and fire the manager...
    – barbecue
    Mar 27 at 16:12
  • 1
    It's interesting to see how this differs between countries. In France, you must sell what you advertise for sell at the advertised price to anyone who wants to buy. You cannot refuse.
    – WoJ
    Mar 27 at 19:29

3 Answers 3

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A business owner can normally refuse service for any reason unless anti-discrimination law, or some other specific law, applies. "Critic of the business" is not a protected class. Whether a business would act in such a way I cannot say if it would risk significant negative publicity. But I see no legal reason why they could not.

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    They've already gotten negative publicity, that's why they're refusing to do business with him.
    – Barmar
    Mar 27 at 8:44
  • See Apple vs. Epic Games. Where apple has made it clear they cancelled all their contracts with Epic Games and no software by Epic Games will ever appear on the App Store.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 27 at 16:30
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    @Barmar A restaurant refusing to seat a customer under those circumstances might well draw much more extensive negative publicity. A version of the Streisand Effect, it seems to me. Mar 27 at 16:50
  • @DavidSiegel True. Making a big deal of it is worse than just letting it slide. And what's the point of banning someone who's probably not inclined to come back?
    – Barmar
    Mar 27 at 17:27
  • @DavidSiegel: True, but there is leeway here based on both how scathing and truthful the review was. At one end of that spectrum (not scathing, truthful), the restaurant is being unnecessarily spiteful and is liable to garner more negative publicity, but the same isn't necessarily true to the other end of that spectrum (scathing, not truthful). That being said, there is of course a difference between what is actually the case and what is believed by others to be the case; but the court of public opinion is a very different beast to tackle and not the focus here.
    – Flater
    Mar 28 at 9:35
7

IANAL, but I think it depends on what service. They can deny to take your money for new stuff. But warranties can't be ignored, neither can other active contracts.

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  • This is a good point with regard to contracts, but most warranties are provided by manufacturers, not retailers.
    – barbecue
    Mar 27 at 16:11
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    @barbecue you're right, warranties are normally provided by manufacturers. But we don't know if the manufacturer is the same as the retailer in this case. Either way warranties are often handled through the retailer where you bought the item. And warranties for services are handled by the seller, since it's the same company.
    – Polygorial
    Mar 27 at 16:38
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    @barbecue This is incorrect at least in all of the EU, where always the retailer and only sometimes the manufacturer and/or importer that is obligated to provide the warranty. Mar 28 at 6:25
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    @DavidMulder caveat: in the german language the retailer has to provide "Gewährleistung" while the manufacturer offers "Garantie". Those are quite different things that sadly both translate into warrenty - making it even more confusing then for german speaking people who often mix them up in the first place. Mar 28 at 11:54
  • "Gewährleistung" is the obligatory warranty retailers are required to provide, whilst "Garantie" is a voluntary warranty the manacturer or anybody else really can provide. Not sure why you think it's sad that they translate into the same term in english? Just because a product or service has to be provided doesn't change the product or service itself. Not to say that it isn't confusing when having to switch between languages :D . Mar 28 at 12:08
0

Jurisdiction: .

It might be unlawful. As noted in other answers, the general rule is that a business is free to serve or not serve customers as it wishes. This general rule is subject to various exceptions. E.g. laws relating to the specific service (e.g. utilities), contractual obligations, and unlawful discrimination laws. In the case of a negative review, refusal of service could be unlawful discrimination if the circumstances are right.

The relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are:

  • Section 4 provides that "religion or belief" is a protected characteristic.
  • Section 13(1) defines direct discrimination as: "A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others."
  • Section 29(1) provides that "A person (a “service-provider”) concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service."

In Grainger plc and others v Nicholson [2010] IRLR 4 (EAT), the Employment Appeal Tribunal set out the following criteria which must be met for something to qualify as a "belief" under the Act:

  1. The belief must be genuinely held.
  2. It must be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
  3. It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  4. It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

So, the answer may well depend on the content of the review and the motivation in posting it. A review that you think "the manager is always a mean jerk to everyone" probably fails at least the 2nd and 3rd criteria. On the other hand, in Casamitjana Costa v League Against Cruel Sports ET/3331129/18, an employment tribunal held that veganism could meet the criteria. Thus, a review posted by someone with a genuine belief in veganism, complaining about a restaurant's meat and dairy practices, could fall within scope. Even then, for the discrimination to be unlawful you would have to establish that the refusal of service was "because of a protected characteristic" (see Section 31(1) above) i.e. that it was because of the vegan views expressed in the review as opposed to because of the fact that a negative review was posted per se. These things can be tricky to prove in court.

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