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They say: “It will soon be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online” Like No ratings yet.

Consumer Review Fairness Act bans customer gag clauses, awaits Obama signature.

Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies.

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

The Commerce Committee held a hearing on gag clauses a year ago and said it heard “testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative online review or payment of $3,500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the review was not taken down, the company reported the unpaid $3,500 to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt, which negatively impacted the Palmers’ credit.”

Palmer beat Kleargear in court, but only after a years-long ordeal. In other cases, a supplements maker, called Ubervita, threatened legal action against customers leaving negative reviews on Amazon, and a jewelry store 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.

The bill also protects reviews that aren’t available via the Internet.

(Information continues at: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/11/congress-passes-law-protecting-right-to-post-negative-online-reviews/)

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