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Had a bad review? Why not sue?

Portugal beachI’ve written before about the dangers of calling in the lawyers when someone writes something negative about your company. Another example of this is about to play itself out in the form of KBS Property Investments vs Expats Portugal.

The latter is a forum for English speakers who live in or love Portugal, KBS Property Investments is a company run by Khes Smedley in Rochdale that specialises in selling property in the Algarve. More than 12 months ago a person posted on Expats Portugal about their experience of KBS, whose business model includes free flights to the Algarve for prospective buyers with a “no obligation” promise. The disgruntled poster complained that KBS did fly him to Portugal but then the hotel asked him to pay his bill. He said he argued that this was supposed to be paid for by KBS but paid the bill anyway so as not to create a fuss.

Within a day of that post going online, KBS had threatened the customer with legal action. Part of the KBS model also includes customers paying a rather large “reservation fee” at the point of finding a property they want to buy. No, not a deposit on a house – a deposit on the possibility that paperwork will be completed. Nothing illegal there, KBS isn’t hiding anything or trying to defraud anyone, but the public has a right to criticise the model. I personally think, for example, that anyone who accepts a free holiday in the Algarve and doesn’t expect some pressure selling is naive. Here’s one example of a complaining customer.

The real problem here is that now, 14 months later, Expats Portugal has announced that it is being sued by KBS Property Investments (which, incidentally, seems to have launched a new website with a slightly different domain name, revealing much less information about who is behind the company).

So, thanks to one customer angrily complaining about his experience online, a forum that is a delight for many expats is now under threat of legal action from a company that really ought to just accept the criticism, or engage more meaningfully with it.

What will happen? We have yet to find out, but my prediction is that KBS, instead of burying the story it was so upset about, will see the story being told and re-told in many other places.

Watch this space. (This article is personal opinion).

July 2012 update: KBS Property seems to keep changing its name as criticism grows. I have found one website smartmoveabroad.com which contains all the same text as the original KBS Property site in the how it works page. There’s also a site in Russia with the same information. Buyer beware.

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