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What is the Line of Defamation Judgement by Reviews for Cosmetic Surgery Clinics?


What is the Line of Defamation Judgement by Reviews for Cosmetic Surgery Clinics?

One of the major sources of information when searching for a beauty clinic is customer reviews. In fact, beauty clinics are one of the industries that are often subject to such reviews.

Unlike general medical treatment, beauty clinics are sought after for the quality of their aesthetic results. As beauty is largely subjective, patients often want to thoroughly understand what the results will look like before undergoing treatment. This is one reason why beauty clinics often receive many reviews.

However, cosmetic surgery is often a sensitive issue for patients. Even minor actions by the doctors or staff at a beauty clinic can lead to complaints, and it is not uncommon for defamatory reviews to be posted on the internet.

Therefore, we will explain what kind of reviews can be considered defamation for beauty clinics.

Characteristics of Reviews Specific to Beauty Clinics

Defamatory reviews about beauty clinics can be broadly divided into the following two types:

  • Reviews about the response of doctors and staff
  • Reviews about the technical skills of doctors

Reviews about the Response of Doctors and Staff

A personalityistic of beauty clinic reviews is the prevalence of critical comments about the remarks and responses of doctors and staff. In the case of beauty clinics, many patients prefer to keep their visits confidential, and this is especially true for celebrities, who visit the clinic with caution to avoid being noticed by those around them.

Therefore, if doctors or staff show an inconsiderate attitude towards personal information, patients tend to be sensitive to it.

Furthermore, matters related to appearance are extremely sensitive issues for the patients themselves. Therefore, it can be said that casual remarks by doctors or staff can easily hurt the feelings of patients.

Reviews about the Technical Skills of Doctors

Reviews about the technical skills of doctors have a significant impact on the management of beauty clinics. Many patients believe that if cosmetic surgery fails, it cannot be undone, so they tend to want to understand the doctor’s technical skills in advance. Therefore, if defamatory reviews about technical skills increase, it can lead to a decrease in patients seeking treatment.

On the other hand, even for discrepancies that doctors may consider non-problematic, there is a high risk of leading to defamatory reviews if patients are not satisfied from an aesthetic perspective.

Criteria for Defamation in Reviews

Defamatory reviews can not only be subject to criminal penalties under the Japanese Defamation Law (Article 230 of the Penal Code), but can also be subject to damages (compensation) in civil law as an illegal act.

Furthermore, if a review on the internet is deemed to be defamatory, it is possible to request the removal of the review from the bulletin board or other platform where it was posted. We provide a detailed explanation about the removal of reviews for beauty clinics in the following article.[ja]

In order for a review to be considered defamatory, it must meet the criteria for defamation as defined in Article 230 of the Penal Code. The criteria for defamation under Article 230 of the Penal Code can be divided into three parts:

  • Publicly
  • Indicating a fact
  • Defaming a person’s reputation

“Publicly” means that it is sufficient if an unspecified number or many people can view the review. In the case of online reviews, they are usually considered to be “publicly” posted. Even if it is a members-only site, if there are dozens or more members, it can be said that there are “many”, so the requirement of “publicly” is met.

“Indicating a fact” means that a specific fact has been written. To put it more simply, something that can be unambiguously judged as true or not is considered a “fact” here.

For example, saying “the face is not cute” is nothing more than a subjective evaluation, and the truth cannot be judged. On the other hand, a review saying “a staff member of the clinic made an insulting remark” can be judged as true or false, at least in terms of the remark. Therefore, the latter can be said to have “indicated a fact”.

“Defaming a person’s reputation” means that the social evaluation of the person or business who received the review has been lowered. This requires not only that the person’s self-esteem has been hurt by the review, but also that the evaluation has objectively decreased.

We provide a detailed explanation about the criteria for defamation in the following article.[ja]

Cases Where Beauty Clinic Reviews Constitute Defamation

We will explain the types of cases where reviews of beauty clinics can be considered defamation, based on past legal disputes.

Please note that the following explanations are only guidelines. The circumstances vary from case to case, and just because a similar review has been made does not necessarily mean it will always be considered defamation.

If you are unsure whether a slanderous review you have posted could be considered defamation, we recommend consulting with a lawyer in advance.

Reviews Stating High Treatment Costs Despite Low Technical Skills

Although it is not a beauty clinic, there is a case where a review of a dental clinic was disputed as defamation in a court decision by the Tokyo District Court on April 26, 2018 (Heisei 30).

For more details on this case, please refer to the following article.[ja]

In this case, reviews were posted stating that “the treatment cost was higher than stated on the website” and “all the teeth treated with ceramics became decayed immediately, and nothing was done even when I asked for help.”

In particular, the latter review gives the impression to the reader that the clinic lacks the technical skills to achieve the purpose of dental treatment.

Given that the purpose of visiting a dentist is to prevent tooth decay and recurrence, it is highly likely that people who see such a review will refrain from visiting the clinic, which is why it was judged to be defamation of the clinic.

Furthermore, in this case, after a thorough examination of all records within the clinic, there was no complaint record that matched the content of the review stating “the teeth decayed immediately and I asked for help.”

Therefore, there was a possibility that the facts stated in the review were not true.

Reviews Stating That the History of Cosmetic Surgery Was Discussed in Front of Other Patients

The Tokyo District Court’s decision on June 24, 2020 (Reiwa 2) ruled that a review stating that the staff of a beauty clinic discussed a patient’s treatment history in a loud voice in front of other patients lowered the social evaluation of the beauty clinic.

A review stating that a specific patient’s treatment history was discussed in a loud voice in front of other patients at a beauty clinic gives the impression that the clinic lacks consideration for individual privacy.

Patients at beauty clinics generally have a strong desire to keep their treatment history confidential, and such a review can be fatal for a beauty clinic.

Therefore, the court ruled that a review stating that the history of cosmetic surgery was discussed in front of other patients lowers the social evaluation of the clinic.

However, it should be noted that in this case, it was proven that the discussion of the treatment history was true. And ultimately, the court ruled that the review had public interest.

As a result, although the requirements for defamation were met, the illegality was denied, and the patient who posted the review was not obliged to pay compensation for emotional distress.

For more details on the review stating that the history of cosmetic surgery was discussed in front of other patients, please refer to the following article.[ja]


Whether critical reviews of beauty clinics constitute defamation can vary greatly on a case-by-case basis. However, certain trends in judgement can be observed.

The content of reviews for beauty clinics can be divided into those regarding the technical skills of the doctors and those regarding the response of the staff. Regardless of the type of review, it can be said that the overall judgement is made from the perspective of whether the content can be considered “fatal” to the beauty clinic when viewed by a third party, or whether the person who saw the review is likely to refrain from visiting the clinic.

From the perspective of beauty clinics, defamatory reviews are a major issue that can significantly impact the management of the clinic. One personalityistic of the internet is that if defamatory reviews are left unattended, they can spread rapidly.

If defamatory reviews are left unattended, they can spread rapidly.

Therefore, it is important to take legal action as soon as possible when defamatory comments about a beauty clinic are discovered.

Our Firm’s Approach

Monolith Law Office is a legal practice with high expertise in both IT, particularly the internet, and law.

In recent years, information related to reputational damage and defamation spread on the internet has been causing serious harm as a ‘digital tattoo’.

If reviews containing defamation against beauty clinics are left unattended, they could eventually affect the management of the clinic.

Our firm provides solutions for dealing with ‘digital tattoos’. Details are provided in the article below.

Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

The Editor in Chief: Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

An expert in IT-related legal affairs in Japan who established MONOLITH LAW OFFICE and serves as its managing attorney. Formerly an IT engineer, he has been involved in the management of IT companies. Served as legal counsel to more than 100 companies, ranging from top-tier organizations to seed-stage Startups.

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