Congress Approves Bill to Protect Consumer Right to Post Online Reviews

The Consumer Review Fairness Act prohibits so-called "gag clauses" in contracts

Congress Approves Bill to Protect Consumer Right to Post Online Reviews
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December 6, 2016

Congress has passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, a law protecting peoples' right to post negative reviews of businesses online.

The next step in the process is for the president to sign the bill, reports ConsumerAffairs.

The Act was passed by the House back in September and received unanimous approval by the Senate last week. Under the terms of the bill, businesses can no longer place so-called "gag clauses" in contracts with consumers to try to silence negative criticism of the products and services provided by those businesses.

"By ending gag clauses, this legislation supports consumer rights and the integrity of critical feedback about products and services sold online," John Thune, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, stated.

A hearing on such clauses was held by the Commerce Committee on November 4, 2015. The hearing included testimony from Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, a case resulting from a company's demand for either the removal of a negative online review or the payment of fines totaling $3,500 due to the non-disparagement clause contained in the online merchant's terms of service.

The company reported the unpaid fines to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt when the critical review was not removed. This had a negative effect on the plaintiffs' credit.

The basis for the charge was the non-disparagement clause contained in the site's terms and conditions, the kind of clause outlawed by the Consumer Review Fairness Act.

The bill makes void any provision of a form contract prohibiting or restricting consumers from posting written, oral, or pictorial reviews online regarding to a business's goods, services, or conduct.