Canstar Blue Legal Threats Policy

Posted by Canstar Blue August 19th 2013

19 August 2013

1. General

Canstar and its subsidiary Canstar Blue operate ratings businesses which are well known and regarded by Australian and New Zealand consumers. Our companies operate to a very high standard of professionalism.  We have 45 experienced staff, and we use professional market research partners when applicable.

Our survey results reflect the survey respondents’ subjective opinions of the product or service under consideration.

The business of ratings means that most brands don’t receive the top rating.  Understandably, some businesses are disappointed.  The vast majority take the results on board.  They sometimes work with us to understand where there is opportunity for improvement.   Canstar Blue will always attempt to answer queries from businesses who are rated by us, in a professional and polite manner.

Over the past 21 years, Canstar and Canstar Blue have received few legal threats, no doubt in part due to the professionalism of our approach and people.   However, from time to time we do receive legal threats and demands.   They are typically written in hostile language intended to intimidate.

Canstar Blue has developed a policy to respond to these threats as follows:

(a)    In the first instance, we far prefer to meet with the company’s management – without lawyers – to see if we can resolve the issues raised.  This is clearly preferable to both parties, and in our experience has led to a better understanding of the issues.  Often the reason for the rating becomes more apparent, or more understood by the management of those who express concern and are prepared to meet with us.

(b)   If we agree that we have made a mistake or provided information that is misleading, we will rectify those matters immediately.

(c)    As a general policy, we will not ‘release all information’ about how a rating was determined or how a survey was conducted.  Often, this is just a fishing expedition and can lead to vexatious and uncommercial litigation.

(d)   If we receive unfounded threatening demands or complaints, we may take any or all of the following actions:

  • Release to the national media a story covering the threatened or actual law suit, including the results of our research.  We may also release this on our website and to our subscriber base.  We note that Canstar Blue is well known by the media and that any legal action would almost certainly attract broad media coverage.  Our company spokesman appears regularly on the highest rating television programs in Australia and together our websites attract around 2 million visitors per year.
  • Publish threatening correspondence on our website.
  • Release additional research.  For example, we may release customer comments collected during the original research process, and conduct and release more research into a particular issue.
  • ‘Yellow Card’ the company’s products or services on the relevant parts of the site.  For example, the product or brand may still appear, but reference will be made to the law suit.  We may or may not remove the product’s rating.
  • ‘Red Card’ the company’s products and services, by not rating such products and services in future surveys, and displaying a statement explaining our action alongside the survey results. For example, where a company makes numerous unfounded or vexatious complaints we might exclude them from future surveys.

We consider the fact that we are threatened with legal proceedings to be newsworthy and to be information that is relevant to consumers when making purchasing decisions.

Other information providers such as Whirlpool and Crikey have similar policies as Canstar Blue’s in relation to legal threats.  

In short, we are prepared and well equipped to defend our business in the court of public opinion as well as the court of law.

An important final point to stress is that Canstar Blue is a ratings business.  If we were to stop ratings due to vexatious claims and lawsuits, we would no longer have a business.  Furthermore, our business provides consumers with information that may be of interest and use to them.  This includes the fact that a survey subject has made legal threats to Canstar Blue about survey results, or about website user feedback regarding their products or services.  We will not be browbeaten by disgruntled survey subjects who resort to legal processes in the absence of a legitimate claim.  In such cases, we have no choice but to take substantial and decisive steps to defend our business.

Canstar Blue retains a general counsel with extensive litigation experience and uses external firms when appropriate.  Our Terms and Conditions set out the terms of use of the Canstar Blue website.

2. User posts

CANSTAR Blue is always happy to consider and respond to reasoned, polite requests from manufacturers and suppliers of goods and services regarding the removal of posts and threads that break our content rules, or that are demonstrably offensive, illegal or defamatory.  Please refer to our Terms and Conditions regarding our User Posts complaints policy.  We will not, however, allow genuine and reasoned discussion to be censored by those with a pecuniary or other interest in the product or service under discussion.

Manufacturers, suppliers and anyone else who demands that we shut down a discussion on the CANSTAR Blue feedback or forum pages without proper and reasonable grounds to do so may be subject to CANSTAR Blue publicizing the demand and the circumstances of it having been made, removing that manufacturer/supplier and all its products from consideration in the CANSTAR Blue research and ratings process, and/or blocking any discussion within the forum of that manufacturer/supplier and or its products.

3. Contact details

If you have an issue you wish to discuss with Canstar Blue, in the first instance please contact us by email at enquiries