Nowadays, the internet savvy among us (which includes just about everyone) rarely do anything without looking at reviews online. With so much information at our fingertips, it seems silly spending money on goods or services without vetting them through somewhere like Yelp, Google, Amazon or the like. This review process has also become integral for businesses as well – for better and for worse – which has led some establishments to include non-disparagement clauses, also known as “gag clauses,” in their contracts, attempting to prevent customers from leaving negative reviews online.
Yesterday, the federal government took its latest step towards trying to outlaw such anti-review clauses, with the House voting to pass the Consumer Review Fairness Act. If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the law would void current non-disparagement clauses as well as prevent new ones in the future.
Granted, from a food perspective, gag clauses aren’t really much of an issue in the restaurant world. If upon entering an eatery, you were asked to sign a contract promising not to write any negative reviews about your experience, you’d probably go to another restaurant. Still, as New Jersey Representative Leonard Lance, one of the bill’s sponsors, explained, this legislation is about the right of people to review their experiences in general.
“This bill is about protecting consumers posting honest feedback online,” Lance was quoted as saying by Consumerist. “Online reviews and ratings are critical in the 21st Century and consumers should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution. Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online. That needs to stop.”
Similar legislation, called the Consumer Review Freedom Act, was passed by the Senate last year, meaning this new act is likely to find its way to the President’s desk. Assuming the bill is signed, it will finally be open season on everything you hate. Just remember to be truthful – at least until we can convince Congress to pass some sort of “Consumer Libel Freedom Act.” Then we can really go to town!