Cosmetic surgery chain blasted for suing clients for negative reviews

Cosmetic surgery chain Signature Clinic SUES customers who left bad reviews online for defamation – as company comes under fire for ‘using legal action to try to silence critics’

A cosmetic surgery chain has been accused of suing customers who left negative reviews online for defamation. 

Signature Clinics has come under fire amid allegations the firm is using legal threats to try and silence its critics and disgruntled former patients.

Kate Kronenbach is being sued for up to £10,000 after being left disappointed with her arm-lift surgery in April 2022 and posting a negative review on Trustpilot about it in May of this year.

The 51-year-old carer said was ‘intimidated’ by the alleged lawsuit being launched by Signature, which is one of country’s largest cosmetic surgery chains.

She told MailOnline: ‘The whole experience has deeply affected my mental health. I’ve sought help with that from my GP. I’m an unpaid carer and so need my wits about me 24/7. As you can imagine that in itself is stressful without the fear of being sued.’

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Kate Kronenbach is being sued for up to £10,000 after being left disappointed with her arm-lift surgery in April 2022 and posting a negative review on Trustpilot about it

An image of the sort of treatments and results Signature Clinics claims it offers 

Speaking to The Times, she added: ‘I felt let down. I was posting my own honest opinion about how I was treated so that other people researching this surgery could make an informed decision. To face legal action, it’s very intimidating.’

Another patient, Mohammed, claimed he is being sued after leaving a negative review in July following his blepharoplasty, a surgical procedure to improve the appearance of the eyelids, in May.

He claims he can no longer completely close his eyes and said: ‘The surgery was something to boost my confidence, but I wish I never did it.’

Signature, owned by GP Dr Sayani Sainudeen, claimed negative reviews had cost it trade, with people cancelling treatment – but it said it could not comment on specific details as legal action was under way. 

The Free Speech Union (FSU) is now assisting Ms Kronenbach and three others facing defamation proceedings as well as two accused of harassment in county court proceedings. All but one are former patients. 

The FSU claimed the actions were strategic lawsuits against public participation (Slapps) typically brought by corporations or individuals – like journalists – with the intention of harassing, intimidating opponents by abusing the legal system.

Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, told MailOnline: ‘Unhappy customers should be able to tell people about their bad experiences on sites like Trustpilot without fear of being sued for defamation.

‘My father Michael Young started Which! magazine, so defending people’s right to write reviews of consumer goods and services without fear or favour is following in the family tradition.’

Signature has eight clinics across the UK. Pictured is its office in Cardiff, Wales 

Signature, owned by GP Dr Sayani Sainudeen (pictured), claimed negative reviews had cost it trade, with people cancelling treatment

The legal action taken by Signature appears to be the first major attempt to silence customers for giving negative reviews online. 

Bryn Harris, chief counsel at the FSU, said it was worrying Signature appeared to be targeting customers for posting their honestly held views online. 

He said that unlike journalists, who are the usual targets of so-called Slapps, members of the public would not have the backing of a major publisher to represent them in court.  

‘I don’t think it would occur to anyone posting an online review that they would ever need legal advice,’ he told the Times. 

However, Signature accused some people of posting ‘fake’ reviews on Trustpilot as part of an ‘entourage of people who have not had a service with our company but are leaving negative reviews’.

But a note by Trustpilot at the top of the page has warned reviewers about the alleged actions of Signature, saying ‘we’ve found out that this company has been pressuring people to remove or edit their negative reviews’. 

Signature Clinic describes itself as one of the country’s leading groups that provide cosmetic, non surgical and hair restoration treatments.

It insists it is a reputable brand that carried out 7,000 procedures last year and has treated more than 20,000 patients.  

Pictured is the warning note on Trustpilot about Signature Clinic 

Ms Kronenbach, who is facing a £10,000 lawsuit, went to the company for an arm-lift surgery to fix sagging skin left after weightloss

However, the firm has come under fire, with an inspection by the Care Quality Commission rating its Manchester clinic as ‘inadequate’. 

The site, which carried out 1,722 procedures in a year, was found to not have enough nursing and support staff with the correct qualifications to keep patients safe. Health monitors also said leaders ‘did not have the skills and abilities to run the service’.

Ms Kronenbach said she had arm-lift surgery to fix sagging skin left after weightloss. But she said she had scars on both arms but that the procedure had not rectified her appearance. Signature refused a partial refund but offered another operation, which she refused as she did not trust them any more. 

Ms Kronenbach made a GMC complaint against Dr Aiofe Turner, the surgeon who carried out the procedure, who has since left Signature. GMC experts said the surgery outcome was satisfactory but claimed there was evidence she failed to provide Ms Kronenbach with sufficient pain relief. 

MailOnline approached Signature for comment. 

However, in a statement to The Times, the firm said it welcomed honest feedback from customers. It disputed criticisms by the patients it is suing and insisted it gave all clients the chance to edit ‘defamatory’ comments before it pursued legal action.

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