Congress has passed a bill protecting consumers’ rights to post negative reviews online. The law is currently awaiting a signature from President Obama.
Passed by unanimous consent by the Senate on Monday, the Consumer Review Fairness Act will make it illegal for businesses to include “non-disparagement” or “gag” clauses which limit a customer’s right to share bad reviews. The hearing on the bill highlighted the 2013 lawsuit Palmer vs. KlearGear, where KlearGear demanded plaintiff Jen Palmer remove a negative online review or face a $3,500 fine based on a gag clause on the company’s Terms of Service. Palmer refused to pay the fine or take down the review, so KlearGear sent the $3,500 fine to a collections agency, negatively impacting Palmer’s credit.
"By ending gag clauses, this legislation supports consumer rights and the integrity of critical feedback about products and services sold online," said John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Such a law was previously in place in the state of California, but now it will apply on a national basis when signed by the president. The bill also protects reviews that aren’t on the internet, allowing consumers to voice their opinion without fear of being punished.
"Reviews on where to shop, eat, or stay on websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor help consumers make informed choices about where to spend their money,” internet subcommittee ranking member Brian Schatz (D-HI) said. "Every consumer has the right to share their honest experiences and opinions of any business without the fear of legal retaliation, and the passage of our bill brings us one step closer to protecting that right."