From our friends at Techdirt:
Geek gadget also-ran KlearGear gained internet infamy thanks to the following paragraph tucked away on its “Terms of Sale and Use” page:
In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts KlearGear.com, its reputation, products, services, management or employees.
Tacked onto this absurd redefining of “fair and honest feedback” was a $3,500 fee. This was levelled at a couple who complained about the non-delivery of products it had paid for. This went to court, and the couple was awarded over $300,000 in a default judgement when KlearGear no-showed.
For the most part, this would seem to be a cautionary tale — something other companies would take into consideration when crafting their own terms of service. But some companies are still apparently willing to dance with the Devil Streisand by including onerous fees tied to the phrase “fair and honest feedback.” Not only will the enforcement of this clause likely result in large amounts of public shaming, but in some states, this may actually be illegal.
In the interest of discouraging future KlearGears from dragging their customers’ credit ratings through the mud in response to bad reviews, we present a list of companies that still maintain similar clauses on their websites, along with dollar amounts demanded if this clause is violated.
Textbooks on Park, a Glen Ellyn, IL, strip mall resident, claims to service College of DuPage students with discounted books and, obviously, textbook rentals. In its rental agreement, it claims the following:
In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance of this rental contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts Textbooks On Park, Inc. its reputation, products, services, management or employees. Should you violate this clause, as determined by Textbooks On Park, Inc. in its sole discretion, you will be provided a seventy-two (72) hour opportunity to retract the content in question. If the content remains, in whole or in part, you will be billed for legal fees and court costs until such complete costs are determined in litigation. Should these charges remian unpaid for 30 calendar days from the billing date; your unpaid invoice will be forwarded to our third party collection firm and will be reported to consumer credit reporting agencies until paid.
It’s hard to see what legal fees Textbooks on Park could possibly claim, unless it was actually able to successfully pursue a libel claim — in which case, there’s no reason for any of this wording to be included. Winning a lawsuit would generally avail it of most of these costs, and uncollected damages would, of course, be referred to collection agencies, etc. The only reason this wording is here is to discourage negative reviews.
Reviews at Yelp are mixed, as are those collected by Google. There seem to be some discrepancies between its stated policies and actual behavior. There’s no indication anyone’s been sued over these reviews, but why take a chance? Textbooks on Park says “support local businesses,” but this clause says take your business elsewhere.
See the full list here.