A recent piece from NPR (here) discusses the practice of searching for potential class action plaintiffs through social media. Turns out posting about a negative experience can lead to being solicited to join a class action suit by a lawyer or an organization. Of course, as the piece mentions, filing a class action lawsuit is not that easy. Finding plaintiffs is just the beginning, but still, that process is made easier by the ability to broadcast a potential claim to the world and see who raises their hand to say “me too”. This means lawyers who specialize in class action suits need to spend less time and resources finding plaintiffs, leaving them with more resources to spend on the actual case.
The NPR piece asks if every negative experience is a possible class action?
We wouldn’t go so far as saying that’s the case. However there is some risk and businesses are better off paying attention to complaints that could apply to a large group of people and become a cause for legal action. Naturally, the larger the business the higher the risk because the chances of compensation are greater.
At OwnerListens, we’ve delivered several complaints that could have turned into class action suits. For example, complaints about accessibility for disabled patrons; complaints about a faulty product; and complaints about misleading marketing or pricing practices. Companies who understand the implications of such complaints, take action quickly to rectify the situation. Companies that aren’t listening to customer, do so at their own peril.
Even a complaint that would not fit in the class action category is cause for legal concern. A regular lawsuit (not a class action) can be an expensive and distracting thing to deal with while trying to run a business and it’s much more likely to happen than a class action suit. While it’s true most customers don’t have the time and resources to pursue lawsuits, some customers do (lawyers for example). Don’t underestimate the determination of an irate customer with time and resources. It really can ruin your business or at the very least cause gray hairs and sleepless nights.
That’s why it’s best to keep complaints private by providing customers with a quick and easy channel to access management. Complaints received privately and dealt with swiftly and effectively have a lower likelihood of becoming lawsuits. In fact, they have a high likelihood of turning the complainer into an advocate. Listening to your customers is not only the best marketing policy, it’s also a great legal strategy. Start now!