Accidently giving professional advice online.

Accidently giving professional advice online.

Did you know that you could be liable for tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for the advice that you give online? I’m talking about when somebody asks a question in a group, and you chip in with your 2 cents worth, it could be that you’re accidentally giving professional advice. If that person relies on that advice and loses money or loses an opportunity to make money, they could sue you. 

Have you ever said, “Yeah, go ahead, name and shame that restaurant that sold your undercooked pork.” By doing that you could be encouraging them to do something that amounts to defamation. Then if they are sued for defamation, they could come after you. Have you ever said, “With that letter of demand, you didn’t really infringe that copyright, so just ignore it, they’ll never come after you.” That’s legal advice. If you don’t have legal qualification and a professional indemnity insurer to help you out, you could be in serious trouble. 

Have you ever given casual tax advice? “You can claim that trip to Thailand as a tax deduction, of course that’s a marketing expense.” That is professional advice, instead have the person you are advising go and see their tax accountant. I’m seeing this all the time, I saw this recently in a group I was in. Somebody had asked some web designer to design her website and the designer had done a terrible job, and this person was saying, “I don’t know what to do, I’ve paid for it, should I just post the disgusting website here, should I name them and shame them on the page?” And the problem with naming and shaming, is that, as the name would suggest, the purpose of naming them is to shame them, which is the definition of defamation.

If you say something, for the purpose of ruining their reputation, that could be defamation. I know in some States, truth is a defense to defamation, so if you said that and it’s true, you’re fine, but in some countries and in some States in Australia, the truth is not a defense. If you’re not happy with something you paid for, it would be appropriate to take it to mediation, or to a court to resolve it, but by putting it on Facebook that could amount to defamation. Even if you’re the person who said, “Yes, go ahead and name and shame.” You could be the one who is liable for the legal costs. 

So, if you’re going to give advice online make sure that you’re clearly telling people that you’re not a professional, unless of course you are. So, if you’re a business coach and you’ve told them, “Yeah, ignore that letter of demand.” What you should be saying is, “I’m not a lawyer, but if it was me, I would ignore it.” That’s fine, that’s your opinion.  

You have to have a disclaimer in your social media posts, otherwise, you could end up getting sued for lots and lots of money. Don’t think that people aren’t going to rely on your advice, why else would they be asking in the first place? It’s because they wanna know and the kind of person that would rely on professional advice from a stranger online, might just be the kind of person who would sue that stranger online, don’t let it be you. I’m Cathryn Warburton, the legallioness, thanks for listening.

Cathryn Warburton About the author

The Legal Lioness. Overcoming severe bullying as a child instilled in her a passion to protect others. As a skilled litigator, she indulges in her dream to push-back against business-bullies who target her clients. She is an international award-winning lawyer and patent attorney and 5-time published author. Cathryn bullet-proofs her client’s businesses and protects them like a mama lioness protecting her cubs. She makes sure that no business is left without access to affordable, easy-to-understand legal information. She does this through her books, proactive legal workshops and 1-2-1 legal services.