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senate Bill S. 2044

Banning Companies From Suing Customers for Negative Reviews

Argument in favor

Customers have a right to publish their honest feedback — and to evaluate companies based on the uncensored reviews of other consumers.

Fernando's Opinion
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12/26/2015
People should be able to post their honest reviews of whatever product they buy. If this is an attempt to remove the outliers that always post negative reviews, should the product be worthy, the overwhelming positive reviews would dominate the few "fake" negative reviews. If the majority reviews are negative, the company needs to work on the product, not silencing the reviewer.
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AndrewGVN's Opinion
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12/16/2015
Consumers shouldn't be restricted to where they cannot access the proper information about their product or service that they purchased. We need more transparency in terms of contracts for cars, houses, rent agreements, etc.
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Steven's Opinion
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12/26/2015
Yes, It's an opinion, if a customer feels they have a bad experience with a business then they are free to express it. The review site created the public forum for those reviews. If I went to papa john's pizza and hated it. I might tell people I know don't eat there. That's as far as It would've gone. Yelp the review site decided to give my opinion a megaphone. Why even let the site exist if you are only allowed to give positive reviews? Operating on the premise that only positive reviews are allowed renders the site and the concept of reviews pointless. If a food critic gives a restaurant a bad review the restaurant can't turn around and sue the food critic. What is this nonsense? Make sure your business is both professional & courteous, not just one or the other, otherwise be prepared for the consequences of bad reviews.
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Argument opposed

Negative online reviews can ruin a company’s reputation — even if they're not true. Businesses need ways to protect themselves against unfair reviews.

Nikki's Opinion
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12/26/2015
Not if it's done in a malicious or defamatory manner. Other businesses pay people to write negative reviews. The whole thing has gotten out of hand.
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Jerry's Opinion
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12/27/2015
False negative reviews can be very destructive to a small business. Truth is important.
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Chris's Opinion
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10/30/2016
So, we do not trust people to read anymore? What is happening to contracting in America? This bill is protecting people from their own stupidity. It prevents small businesses from protecting themselves. It forces businesses to play the disingenuous game of guiding fake positive reviews when they're prevented from fighting against negative dishonest reviews.
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What is Senate Bill S. 2044?

This bill — the Consumer Review Freedom Act — was designed to keep businesses from contractually barring their customers from reviewing them online (think sites like Yelp and it's competitors). These are often called "gag clauses" or “anti-review clauses” and mostly come into play against customers who write bad reviews. 

These are legal tools (often in the fine print of the terms of service) that businesses use to protect their online reputation — often unbeknownst to the customer. Although courts tend to side with consumers when these cases make it into courts, this bill would add protections for customers/reviewers by making the clauses flat-out illegal and voiding them immediately.

If passed, the bill will grant authority to enforce the law and prosecute deceptive or unfair contracts to individual states and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will also be responsible for business outreach and support to help companies meet the new guidelines.

Impact

People who write reviews on sites like Yelp, anyone who use and/or trusts other’s Yelp reviews, companies that already (or plan to) include anti-negative review clauses in their contracts, Yelp and other review sites, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 2044

$0.00
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects costs from this measure to be negligible.

More Information

In Depth: The specific types of clauses banned in this bill are any that:

  • Prevent a person from reviewing products or services;

  • Penalize or fine negative reviewers;

  • Transfer the intellectual property rights included in reviews. (In this roundabout strategy, a business has customers sign a contract transferring the rights to any reviews they might write in the future. Then, if the company sees a review it doesn’t like, it can file a DMCA notice to have the review taken down.)

The bill does have several exceptions. This protection would not apply to reviews that reveal:

  • Trade secrets or confidential commercial/ financial information.

  • Personnel and medical files.

  • Law enforcement records.


Of Note: Interest in this bill grew because of several national stories about online reviewers getting hit with huge fines or lawsuits. One woman told the Senate Commerce Committee her credit score dropped when she was fined by an online retailer after leaving a negative review.

This legislation was modeled after California’s so-called “Yelp Bill,” which passed last year.

Media: 

Summary by Katie Rose Quandt
(Photo Credit: Flickr user motionage)

AKA

Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015

Official Title

A bill to prohibit the use of certain clauses in form contracts that restrict the ability of a consumer to communicate regarding the goods or services offered in interstate commerce that were the subject of the contract, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Consumer Protection and Commerce
  • The senate Passed December 14th, 2015
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    IntroducedSeptember 16th, 2015

Log in or create an account to see how your Reps voted!
    People should be able to post their honest reviews of whatever product they buy. If this is an attempt to remove the outliers that always post negative reviews, should the product be worthy, the overwhelming positive reviews would dominate the few "fake" negative reviews. If the majority reviews are negative, the company needs to work on the product, not silencing the reviewer.
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    Not if it's done in a malicious or defamatory manner. Other businesses pay people to write negative reviews. The whole thing has gotten out of hand.
    Like (6)
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    Consumers shouldn't be restricted to where they cannot access the proper information about their product or service that they purchased. We need more transparency in terms of contracts for cars, houses, rent agreements, etc.
    Like (11)
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    Yes, It's an opinion, if a customer feels they have a bad experience with a business then they are free to express it. The review site created the public forum for those reviews. If I went to papa john's pizza and hated it. I might tell people I know don't eat there. That's as far as It would've gone. Yelp the review site decided to give my opinion a megaphone. Why even let the site exist if you are only allowed to give positive reviews? Operating on the premise that only positive reviews are allowed renders the site and the concept of reviews pointless. If a food critic gives a restaurant a bad review the restaurant can't turn around and sue the food critic. What is this nonsense? Make sure your business is both professional & courteous, not just one or the other, otherwise be prepared for the consequences of bad reviews.
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    This would just give already too powerful companies more over bearing power!
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    You can't sue people for telling the truth, at least you can't morally due so.
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    If anything, I strongly advise these companies/businesses to have a copious amount of gratefulness for even negative reviews. Negative reviews by the consumers or general public may greatly initiate influential Changes to companies that so as a result negative reviews can result in alleviations. In other words, there is always room for improvement when it comes to consumer service. The general public is the main aspect for positive influence for companies. Additionally, banning this manner from citizens writing negative comments would be exemplifying secular and communist implementations! However, now we must think more narratively and realize the side effects of negative reviews and how their potential can be abused to target/threaten lives. Business simply must immediately incorporate authorities if necessary if their is any threats by consumer reviews. Such threats incorporate for instance, threatening to commit arson on a industrial building that a company owns. To reiterate consumer reviews weather being positive or negative can greatly influence entrepreneurship for companies or on the other hand if a threat that is harmful is written then remember "Threats must always be diffused before they are implemented". The whole significance of reviews for companies is so there can be some negative reviews to positively influence their service not always have the phony testimonials that the owners wife wrote: "Hey Rachel can you be a good wife and write a good review about me?" NO! This matter is outrageous! Although in a opposing scenario if a threat distributed then we must seek assistance with authorities, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. We must exemplify realistic thinking when it comes to influencing entrepreneurship.
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    False negative reviews can be very destructive to a small business. Truth is important.
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    Freedom of speech. Yes people can give a bad review, but if a product is good it will be easily out balanced. Faulty good reviews are also a possibility
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    Barring people from writing reviews is against our constitution's freedom of speech. People should be able to see reviews without the bias of the seller.
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    Freedom of speech
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    Although I believe that a private company should be able to control its property however it wants, doing so by hiding these clauses in fine print is a form of taking advantage of people. Besides, places where you can post reviews are essentially public forums (on another person's private property), and so free speech should be protected.
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    Being libel for goods and services has been the backbone of our legal system. The little guy can sue the big bad company, which can counter-sue the little guy. It's up to a jury or judge to even the fulcrum. A rational person relies on fair an just laws to tip the balance towards justice. OR King POTUS could rule against justice and rule in favor of his best crony rich Chicago buddies. LAWS ARE FOR THE RICH AND POWERFUL, NOT FOR THE WORKING CLASS. Just like Socialism! Why do you think most of the elite DemocRats are wealthy and seeking a public office?
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    If a company isn't doing right by its customers, potential customers have a right to know, and customers with legitimate grievances have a right to be heard.
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    Free speech is a necessity to a working democracy, it's the people's right to share their opinions, whether everyone agrees with it or not.
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    1st amendment
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    First amendment. Simple as that.
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    Consumers have a right to know everything about the products they pay their hard earned money on.
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    The threat of a company being able to sue a customer over a negative review is a form of extortion.
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    Absurd, unless the reviews are 100% entirely false and cause massive amounts of damage to the company. Say Dian Sawyer says "My room at the Hilton Garden Inn was filled with cockroaches" on live TVand it can be proven there are no cockroaches.
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