Alfa Leisure Inc., Chino, Calif., has sued RV Consumer Group, a nonprofit, membership dues-supported organization, for libel and defamation for publishing a consumer’s complaint on its website.
The person submitting the complaint, Margo Crawford, also was named as a defendant in the law suit, which was filed in state court in San Bernardino, Calif., according to Connie Gallant, administrator of the Quilcene, Wash.-based organization.
RV Consumer Group will “aggressively defend our position,” Gallant added.
Crawford, a full-time RVer, said she and her husband, a construction company foreman, bought a new 1998 Alfa Leisure fifth-wheel from a dealer in Las Vegas four years ago. However, she said the fifth-wheel has numerous flaws which are outlined in her complaint published in the Court of Public Opinion section of the RV Consumer Group website, www.rv.org.
Crawford’s Court of Public Opinion posting also includes two letters written last July and November by Alfa Leisure President Johnnie Crean, who stated that his company would perform repair work for a “very reduced ‘special’ rate,” but not for free, because the warranty had expired.
On its website, RV Consumer Group states that the Court of Public Opinion is “provided strictly as an educational service.”
The Court of Public Opinion also includes a feature that allows voting over the Internet on the question of whether the person submitting the complaint should get the remedy they requested, or whether the entity that is the object of the complaint should be exonerated.
Before RV Consumer Group posts a Court of Public Opinion item, it requires documentation including a bill of sale, repair bills, other receipts, letters and photos, Gallant said.
In its law suit, Alfa Leisure claims it has been damaged because Crawford’s complaints “could have been viewed by anyone in the U.S. who has access to a computer or the Internet,” according to RV Consumer Group.
JD Gallant, president of RV Consumer Group and husband of Connie Gallant, believes the Alfa Leisure suit could “define issues relating to opinions stated in a consumer forum format and published on the Internet.”