“Gag clauses” in customer contracts may soon be a thing of the past


Here’s a prime example of politicians doing something right for once!

The House has approved a bill called the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA), a bipartisan piece of legislation that promises to wipe out any existing non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts.

Put into simple English, that means consumers who were bound by a business to not say anything negative about them would have the right to do so going forward.

Read more: How to post a hotel review online without getting any blowback

Imagine a future with no consumer ‘gag clauses’

The Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill, called the Consumer Review Freedom Act, late last year. Now the approved House version of the CRFA goes back to the Senate for reconciliation.

Consumerist reports that the language is nearly identical in both the House and the Senate version. Therefore, no further delays are expected en route to getting the president’s signature to make it into law.

If enacted, the CRFA would give the FTC and the states the right to enforce against businesses who try to cram ‘gag clauses’ down consumers’ throats in an effort to keep them quiet.

How to complain online and not get sued

Regardless of what happens with this pending legislation, there are some things you can do to lessen the likelihood that you’ll be sued for what you post about a business online.

Consumer Reports suggests you keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Know your state’s law regarding SLAPP suits. Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are designed to threaten you with expensive and time-intensive litigation to deter you from posting a negative review. By knowing your state’s laws, you can understand the parameters of what you legally can and can’t say in your review.
  • Make sure you didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement. While not common, some doctors do stipulate patients sign such an agreement before treatment. RateMDs.com has a ‘Wall of Shame’ of doctors who have adopted this practice. Avoid them at all costs.
  • Stick strictly to the facts with your complaint. Keep it short, simple and factual; nothing more and nothing less.
  • Cool off. Write your complaint out and then take 24 hours to reflect on it before you post. Make sure your vitriol isn’t crowding out the facts in what you’ve written.
  • Realize that your veil of privacy can be pierced. You may think you’re writing a fairly anonymous review, but it is possible that information about your identity, IP address, and location could be subpoenaed at the request of an offended business. The privacy policy of the website where you post your comments isn’t likely to protect you either.
  • Know what to do if you are sued. In the worst case if you are sued, you may be covered by your homeowner’s policy for defamatory statements. Check with your insurer to see.  
  • Remember, it all comes back to sticking strictly to the facts. Never post libelous comments that disparage anyone’s character. That’s the best way to stay out of trouble.

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