Consumer Review Fairness Act
The Consumer Review Fairness Act was a legislative victory for PPP in 2016. PPP began working on this bill back in 2014 with Rep. Eric Swalwell and continued to fight for this legislation until it was enacted in 2016. Read the text of the law here.
A few highlights from PPP include:
- Board Member Eric Goldman testified at the hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee in support of this legislation on November 5, 2015. View his testimony here.
- Policy Director Evan Mascagni and Board Member Sophia Cope were interviewed for a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle on the Consumer Review Fairness Act. View that article here.
- PPP worked with coalition and folks on the Hill, releasing press releases and letters of support in favor of the bill.
Here is the text from PPP's original press release on the bill:
The Public Participation Project (PPP) is proud to stand behind Rep. Issa and Rep. Swalwell to support the Consumer Review Freedom Act.
In his own statement supporting this bill, PPP board member Professor Eric Goldman pointed out:
Suppressing consumer reviews undermines consumers' rights to express themselves, and it distorts the marketplace's ability to reward good producers and punish poor ones. I'm excited that Congress is working to end these pernicious attempts to gag consumers.
One such example of an attempt to gag consumers was Palmer v. Kleargear.com. This case involved a couple from Utah who was fined $3,500 by KlearGear for violation of a non-disparagement clause after they posted a negative review online about their experience with the company.
Palmer is just one example of recent headlines that shed light on the problem of non- disparagement clauses. There are many examples over the past few years that have shed light on this shameful practice by businesses, from a hotel in New York that threatened to charge guests $500 for posting negative reviews online, to a contractor who voided his client's warranty because of a negative online review.
However,this phenomenon isn’t unprecedented. For years consumers have been getting hit with Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), in which a plaintiff files a meritless lawsuit against a consumer for posting a negative review online. Now many businesses have learned how to avoid filing a SLAPP by burying non- disparagement clauses in the fine print of consumer contracts.
Both tactics by businesses are aimed at chilling the First Amendment rights of consumers. For this reason, PPP applauds the work of Rep. Issa and Rep. Swalwell and is proud to support this bill.
Evan Mascagni is the Policy Director of the Public Participation Project, an organization dedicated to enactment of strong federal and state legislative protections against SLAPPs. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Eric Goldman is a Professor of Law and Co-Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law. His research and teaching focuses on Internet, IP and marketing law topics, and he blogs on those topics at blog.ericgoldman.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.