Bad reviews are a fact of life in our post-Yelp world. Sometimes they’re used for hilarity, sometimes for revenge, but they’re always going to be there. In fact, Congress wants to ensure they’ll live forever by passing the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which would protect online critics from attempts to gag them before they can even type a sentence.
It’s no secret that not all businesses take bad reviews with humility and grace. Sometimes businesses have attempted to hide language in their terms of service, generally called “gag clauses,” that consumers agree to never say anything mean about them, and then suing for thousands when the consumers “violate” an agreement they likely didn’t read. The most notorious case is Palmer Vs. Kleargear, where a business sued a dissatisfied customer and it dragged out into a years-long legal drama.
The Consumer Review Fairness Act makes gag clauses illegal and gives the Federal Trade Commission the right to investigate cases and punish companies that try to use this dodge to prevent negative reviews. That doesn’t mean, however, that critics are fully off the hook. While it’s unlikely any lawsuit over a review, usually on the premise of libel, will get through the courts, it’s enough of a problem that Yelp is warning users about it. So perhaps dial back the profanity and stick to the facts in your review of the place with terrible service and even worse food.
(Via Ars Technica)