You have the right to be angry! That’s what a couple of US congressmen believe. Earlier this week, Representatives Eric Swalwell and Brad Sherman (both California Democrats) introduced the Consumer Review Freedom Act, legislation that aims to protect consumers who post negative reviews online.
“But we already have that right,” you turn to say just before lunging to your keyboard to type a vicious review calling this post a waste of time. But here’s a surprising truth: That right has been infringed on for quite a while. You know those long terms of sale agreements that you have to agree to but never actually take the time to read? Some unscrupulous sites have been burying “non-disparagement clauses” in those contracts, which the businesses and sites claim allow them to levy fines against you if ever decide to tell the world how much they suck.
Consumerist presents the experience of two customers, both whom had to fight against online retailers that attempted to hit them with fees after a dispute. In one case, a company called KlearGear.com tried to charge a woman a $3,500 fine after she complained about a product that never even arrived. In a fitting turnaround, a court later ruled that KlearGear.com owed damages to the customer for her experience.
Instances like these have already led the state of California to outlaw such clauses, through a bill signed earlier this month. So it’s not surprising that two California representatives are the ones attempting to take these protections national.
“It’s un-American that any consumer would be penalized for writing an honest review,” Swalwell was quoted as saying. Yes, as un-American as really bad, one-star apple pie.