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Soon to be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online

Congress has just passed a law further protecting the right of the US consumer, essentially saying it is A-OK to post negative reviews or slander online in regards to a particular business without fear of that business seeking some sort of retaliation.

The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by a unanimous consent in the US Senate yesterday.  The bill, which was introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama’s signature.

A case that was brought up last year, Palmer v KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative review or payment of $3500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause.  When Ms. Jen Palmer refused to take down the review, the company reported the unpaid $3500 as an outstanding debt to a credit reporting agency.

Palmer in the end, after a year long battle, won the case.

There have been other similar cases as well.  Such as a supplements seller, Ubervita, whom threatened legal action against customers leaving negative reviews on Amazon.  As well as a jewelry store that sued a customer who left a one-star review on Yelp.

“The Consumer Review Fairness Act—full text available here—voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service. It also voids provisions that impose penalties or fees on customers for posting online reviews as well as those that require customers to give up the intellectual property rights related to such reviews. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the new law and impose penalties when necessary.” – Arstechia

Senate Republicans and Democrats alike praised the bill’s passage. “By ending gag clauses, this legislation supports consumer rights and the integrity of critical feedback about products and services sold online,” Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said in the announcement.

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