House passes Consumer Review Fairness Act!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
HOUSE PASSES CONSUMER REVIEW FAIRNESS ACT!
September 12, 2016
The Public Participation Project (PPP) applauds the United States House of Representatives for passing the Consumer Review Fairness Act!
As previously pointed out by PPP board member Professor Eric Goldman when the bill was first introduced:
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 United States House of Representatives for passing the Consumer Review Fairness Act and encourages the Senate to move quickly to ensure this bill becomes law!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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