A new bill proposed in Congress wants to make it illegal for businesses to take retribution against customers who leave bad reviews online about their experiences.
A bipartisan group of representatives reintroduced The Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2014 on Wednesday. “Some organizations have sought to stifle customers’ abilities to express their opinions online by threatening punitive action if a customer leaves a negative review,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors. “The mere threat of monetary penalties or fines for writing honest reviews would chill the free exchange of opinions we expect to find on the Internet.”
If passed, the bill would “prohibit the use of certain clauses in form contracts that restrict the ability of a consumer to communicate regarding the goods or services that were the subject of that contract.” In effect, it would void non-disparagement clauses and allow legal action to be taken against businesses that include these sorts of clauses in their consumer contracts.
As The Consumerist points out, plenty of such cases have surfaced recently, including businesses trying to charge customers fines for leaving negative reviews and even a dentist who claimed copyright ownership of a patient’s Yelp review.
California passed a similar law banning non-disparagement clauses last year. And many legal challenges to these clauses are already winning in court without any federal legislation on the books. Still, consumers would probably appreciate the additional protection. Otherwise, they might have to leave a bad review for Congress on Yelp. Is there a Yelp page for Congress? Oh. Of course there is.