Congress Inches Closer To Outlawing “Gag Clauses” That Block Customers From Writing Negative Reviews

Steve R.

The House of Representatives will soon get to vote on a bill that would make it illegal for a company to use so-called “non-disparagement” or “gag” clauses in their contracts and user agreements to prevent customers from writing or saying anything negative about that company. [More]

Couple That Was Sued For $1M Over Yelp Review Asks Court To Dismiss Lawsuit

Couple That Was Sued For $1M Over Yelp Review Asks Court To Dismiss Lawsuit

For months, we’ve been following the saga of the Texas couple who were first sued by their petsitter for $6,766 over a negative Yelp review, only to have that case dropped and re-filed as a full-on defamation lawsuit seeking up to $1 million in damages. Now, the couple is asking the court to just throw the entire case out because it should be prohibited by Texas state law. [More]

Jennifer Moo

Congress May Finally Outlaw “Gag Clauses” That Block Customers From Writing Negative Reviews

Last December, it looked like federal lawmakers were getting serious about so-called “non-disparagement” or “gag” clauses in consumer contracts that forbid customers from saying anything negative about a purchase or transaction. The U.S. Senate quickly passed a bipartisan bill that would outlaw the practice, but the legislation has idled in the House since. However, a new, virtually identical bill may finally be evidence of movement on this issue. [More]

Petsitter Sues Couple For $6,766 Over Negative Yelp Review

Petsitter Sues Couple For $6,766 Over Negative Yelp Review

So you hired a pet sitter to take care of your companions while you were out of town, but you weren’t happy with the service you received. You’re free to go online and publicly share your thoughts about that experience, as long as what you write is truthful. But you still might be sued by that pet sitter if your contract included a clause forbidding you from posting anything negative about the company. [More]

Is Amazon Doing Anything To Fight Latest Wave Of Fake, Paid-For Reviews?

Is Amazon Doing Anything To Fight Latest Wave Of Fake, Paid-For Reviews?

Since Amazon began allowing customers to post reviews on product pages, various waves of bogus reviewers have attempted to game the system by posting fictitious or dishonest write-ups. While Amazon has recently taken legal action against people paid to write fake reviews for products, and the site has a ban on most forms of “paid” reviews, there’s a new crop of compensated reviewers who are receiving free or discounted products in exchange for then writing “honest” reviews. But some of these users are writing dozens of reviews a day, sometimes for products they couldn’t possibly have tried. [More]

Senate Passes Bill Barring Companies From Using “Gag Clauses” To Block Negative Reviews

Senate Passes Bill Barring Companies From Using “Gag Clauses” To Block Negative Reviews

A nationwide ban on the use of tricky “non-disparagement” or “gag” clauses — which prevent consumers from providing their honest opinions in public forums — cleared the Senate today, bringing it one major step closer to becoming law. [More]

Senate Committee OKs Bill Barring Companies From Using “Gag Clauses” To Block Negative Reviews

Senate Committee OKs Bill Barring Companies From Using “Gag Clauses” To Block Negative Reviews

A bill that would enact a nationwide ban on the use of tricky “non-disparagement” or “gag” clauses to prevent consumers from providing their honest opinions in public forums is one step closer to becoming a law today, after the Senate Commerce Committee voted to approve the Consumer Review Freedom Act. [More]

Jennifer Moo

Things Are Looking Up For Federal Law Banning “Gag Clauses” That Prevent Customers From Writing Honest Reviews

While most companies understand that honest negative feedback is, at worst, an inevitability of doing business, and maybe even a chance to improve, some companies try to use non-disparagement, or “gag,” clauses that use threats of legal action or financial penalties to prevent customers from writing or saying anything negative about that business — even if what’s being said is 100% true. We’ve seen these in everything from cheapo cellphone accessories, to wedding contractors, to hotels, to dentists, to weight-loss products, to apartment complexes. California recently enacted a law banning this sort of behavior, and some courts have deemed these clauses unenforceable, but there is still no nationwide consensus on their legality. Previous attempts to create a federal ban on gag clauses have been dead on arrival at Capitol Hill, but the latest effort appears to have some life to it. [More]

This prairie dog is not impressed by your hollow threats of legal action. (Angela N.)

Fertility Service Threatens Customer With Multimillion-Dollar Lawsuit For Complaining To Better Business Bureau

A New Jersey woman who thought she’d been cheated out of several thousand dollars by a service that connects prospective parents with willing egg donors did something that a lot of ticked-off consumers do: She filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau — not knowing that the company would then threaten her with a massive legal action for daring to speak her mind. [More]

(photo: colonelchi)

A Year After Restaurant Owner Asked Me To Change Yelp Review, Things Got Weird

You may remember reader Mark, who left a bad Yelp review for a local tavern back in 2013, then received a request from the business’s new owner asking him to change or remove the review. Mark declined. That was a year ago: the owner apparently went through his Yelp inbox recently to rage at correspondents. Here is our gift to small business owners: another cautionary tale about how not to handle your online presence. [More]

In spite of her assertions to the contrary, Amazon insists that Imy is a personal friend of an author whose book she tried to review, but the site won't disclose how it came to this conclusion.

Amazon Is Data Mining Reviewers’ Personal Relationships

Any Amazon customer is likely aware that the e-tail giant knows a lot about them. That’s how it personalizes product suggestions and customizes the marketing e-mails it sends. But some Amazon users are now finding out that the site knows — or at least it thinks it knows — who your friends are, and is restricting their reviews accordingly. [More]

Sybren Stüvel

Nearly 70% Of Consumers Rely On Online Reviews Before Making A Purchase

Everyone has an opinion, and nowadays most people are willing to share it; for better or worse. So it shouldn’t be surprising then – what with the sheer number of outlets available in which consumers can express their feeling about products and services – that nearly seven-in-ten consumers actually base their purchases on the digital recommendations of strangers. [More]

Yelp Reportedly Testing The Merger Market

Yelp Reportedly Testing The Merger Market

Yelp might still be the most recognizable name in crowdsourced online reviews, but it may be hitting a wall in terms of audience growth as it faces increasing competition; all the while, the company’s stock price remains less than half of what it used to be. All of this might explain why the company is reportedly looking to find a buyer for its multibillion-dollar business. [More]

New Law Would Ban Companies From Penalizing Customers Who Write Negative Reviews

New Law Would Ban Companies From Penalizing Customers Who Write Negative Reviews

For the last couple of years, we’ve been telling you about ridiculous, so-called “non-disparagement” clauses that threaten customers with financial penalties for writing (or threatening to write, or even encouraging someone else to write) something negative online about a company. California has already outlawed these clauses, which tend to fail when challenged in court, but an attempt to enact legislation at the federal level has so far fallen short. But that’s not stopping some members of Congress from trying to ban this form of consumer bullying. [More]

Sybren Stüvel

Don’t Lie About Paying For Online Reviews. It’s Against The Law

In this era of social media and crowdsourced reviews, businesses with happy customers do what they can to publicize positive feedback. But if a company compensates customers for reviews and fails to disclose that tit-for-tat relationship, it’s illegal and deceptive marketing. [More]

The defendants' website promises that only 4- and 5-star reviews will be posted online while reviews of 3-star or worse will be sent to a "Control Center."

Yelp Sues Websites Promising “All Positive Reviews” For Businesses

While Yelp may be within its legal rights to re-order and filter its user-submitted reviews, the company is taking legal action against the operator of multiple websites promising “all positive reviews for your business.” [More]

TripAdvisor Fined $612K In Italy For Not Doing Enough To Block Fake Reviews

TripAdvisor Fined $612K In Italy For Not Doing Enough To Block Fake Reviews

Many consumers look at crowdsourced reviews on TripAdvisor or Yelp and understand there is a possibility that a review could be bogus. Sites like these generally have methods for detecting and blocking fake write-ups, but regulators in Italy say that TripAdvisor isn’t doing enough to stop the faux reviews and has to pay up or enact stricter policies. [More]

Yet Another Court To Hear Yelp’s Argument Against Revealing Reviewers’ Names

(photo: colonelchi)

For more than two years, a carpet cleaning company in Virginia has been trying to compel Yelp to turn over the identities of reviewers the company accuses of posting false and defamatory information. While both a trial court and a state appeals court have told Yelp to fork over that info, the crowdsourced reviews site has not yet done so — and tomorrow it takes its case before the highest court in Virginia. [More]