e previously discussed a precedent-setting decision from the Court of Cassation in a case where we claimed that requesting membership fees from brands on consumer complaint websites constituted unfair competition. During this lawsuit, another question came to mind: Can websites like “sikayetvar.com” or “sikayetim.com” feature complaints about brands without obtaining permission from the brands? Is it legal for derogatory complaints, even bordering on defamation, to be posted about brands on consumer complaint websites where brands have not voluntarily become members? Can you have complaints removed from “sikayetvar.com”? Let’s explore the answers to these questions together!
Let’s examine how consumer complaint websites operate:
Consumers can visit these websites and express their opinions, thoughts, or complaints about a product or service. However, there is no mechanism to verify whether the individuals posting complaints about brands are actually customers of those brands or if they have made purchases from those brands. Someone posting complaints about a brand, making negative statements, could very well be a competitor or someone trying to harm the brand’s reputation. Furthermore, the identity information of these complainers is not disclosed. To become a member of these websites, brands are required to pay an annual membership fee. In a previous lawsuit we initiated, it was ruled and confirmed by the Court of Cassation that the demand for a membership fee was unjust.
Can Freedom of Expression for Consumers Be Restricted?
Platforms that grant consumers “freedom of expression,” as well as others on the internet, such as official brand websites, other websites, and social media, enable consumers to write positive or negative comments and reviews about products and services. In some cases, consumers can rate brands. However, on these platforms, the business models are mostly based on advertising revenue or commission fees from sales. Now, it’s crucial to note that none of these platforms exploit the sensitivity around a brand’s reputation, attempting to benefit financially from it, as is the case with the mentioned consumer complaint websites. In this regard, it’s difficult to argue that transparent platforms are provided to consumers when there is a clear gain from these expressions, especially when the brands are concerned.
Is Unauthorized Use of a Brand Preventable?
In our application, which clearly demonstrated the unlawfulness of this use, the court found our allegations strong. As a result, a decision was made for the removal of all names, images, and complaints related to the represented brand from the mentioned consumer complaint website. Based on this decision, we can say that a new era is beginning for internet sites that have been operating for years under the guise of being “consumer-friendly,” exploiting consumers as “prey,” allowing brand reputations, which have been built with great effort, to be tarnished without any oversight, and treating the loss of brand owners’ reputations as a means of profit, all while continuing to demand membership fees despite court orders!