Proposed Bill Would Make It Illegal to Penalize Businesses That Take Action Against Negative Reviews Online - NBC Bay Area

Proposed Bill Would Make It Illegal to Penalize Businesses That Take Action Against Negative Reviews Online

Three Californian Representatives and one Texas Representative introduced The Consumer Review Freedom Act Wednesday.

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    Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) questions witnesses during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

    A newly proposed bill would make it illegal for businesses to fine those who post bad reviews on sites such as Yelp.

    Three Californian Representatives and one Texas Representative introduced The Consumer Review Freedom Act Wednesday, which would make it illegal for businesses to penalize customers who write negative reviews online.

    U.S. Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose district includes parts of San Diego County, Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who represents parts of Alameda County, and Brad Sherman (D-CA), who represents parts of LA County, and Blake Farenthold (R-TX).

    “Some organizations have sought to stifle customers’ abilities to express their opinions online by threatening punitive action if a customer leaves a negative review,” Issa said. “The mere threat of monetary penalties or fines for writing honest reviews would chill the free exchange of opinions we expect to find on the Internet.”

    The bill would make non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts unenforceable. The Department of Justice and state attorney generals would be given power to take action against businesses that include those clauses. 

    Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill with a non-disparagement clause into law in 2014.

    One Utah couple was fined $3,500 by KlearGear for violating a similar clause, according to a release, following a negative review they posted online about their experience with the company. Their refusal to pay took the claim to credit bureaus and the action damaged their rating.

    “Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about being punished for posting an honest review. This is commonsense legislation to ensure the rights of consumers are protected and penalize businesses attempting to silence fair criticism,” Swalwell said.

    Public Participation Project, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Federation of America and Public Citizen have come out in support of the bill.