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Businesses May No Longer Sue Customers Over Negative Reviews (thenextweb.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: A few months I wrote about the Consumer Review Fairness Act. In a nutshell, this offers legal protections to consumers who leave negative reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. You can now call out the restaurant who gave you food poisoning, or a bed-bug infested hotel without the risk of being dragged into a civil court. The long-overdue bill explicitly bans non-disparagement clauses in contracts between businesses and patrons. Over the years, there's been a rash of people getting sued after speaking their mind online. Today, President Obama signed off on the Consumer Review Fairness Act. It's now law. As great as this is for consumers, it's even better for the likes of TripAdvisor and Yelp, whose business model relies on people being able to speak their minds.
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Businesses May No Longer Sue Customers Over Negative Reviews

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  • Oh please... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Thursday December 15, 2016 @05:36PM (#53493035)

    . As great as this is for consumers, it's even better for the likes of TripAdvisor and Yelp, whose business model relies on people being able to speak their minds.

    Yelp is a glorified e-racketeer that collects extortion fees from small businesses the world over. Please spare me the "people being ale to speak their minds" BS.

    • Yelp is a glorified e-racketeer that collects extortion fees from small businesses the world over.

      Please elucidate.
    • So.... is this a bad law or a good law? I don't know whether or not be outraged...

      • So.... is this a bad law or a good law? I don't know whether or not be outraged...

        Yes. You definitely should...

      • Why do you need a reason to be outraged? Look, if everything fails, be outraged at yet another law being passed and that soon we won't be able to be law abiding anymore because there are too many laws.

        Kids these days...

    • Please spare me the "people being ale to speak their minds" BS.

      I originally read this as "Please spare me the 'people bring ale to speak their minds' BS." I thought to myself: that's not BS, people DO bring ale to speak their minds. And now the company can't sue you for what you speak your mind, having brought ale. Sort of.

    • What's the superior alternative?

      Seems like something I would hope Consumer Reports would do, but all I seem to see on their web site is appeals for donations (on top of subscription fees). -_-

      Yelp may suck but it's the best we have.

      btw, speaking of compromised entities, the Better Business Bureau is funded by businesses not consumers. Conflict of interest much?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What if the customer is lying? Like suppose they falsely claim food poisoning in retaliation for poor service. Could the business then sue them for unwarranted slander?

    • if you can prove what they said was a lie then would still be actionable in court.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This law means you cant sue under a contract theory. Suing under a libel theory is basically a loser action as getting into the "truth" of a matter is fact heavy, runs up crazy legal bills and amounts to a flip of a coin before a jury. Contract claims for breaching non-disparagement clauses are much more straight forward and often decided on motion with no need for a costly trial at all. Basically, very few people will file libel cases, but many more will happily file a contract claim if one is available.

        An

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Anyway, what this really means in practice is if you have a competitor with small pockets its will be even easier for you to pay some people to drown them in bad reviews and they realistically have no defense against it. It's anti-competitive and will help big business screw little business but its sufficiently populist on the surface that the prole masses will think it's a good thing.

          They could do this anyway. If you haven't actually stayed at the hotel or whatever, then you are not covered by any potential contract forbidding bad reviews.

        • by santiago ( 42242 )

          Allowing terms of service that prohibit disparagement does nothing to stop false reviews, because there was no service and no agreement to a contract in the first place. Libel laws are the only remedy against false reviews in either case.

      • What? Did they flip that around now, too?

        Back when I was young, the rule was "who accuses has to prove guilt". When did that get turned around? I mean, we're just talking about poisoning and killing people, not raping anymore.

    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      It doesn't change libel or slander laws.

  • Does this mean we will now see actual honest reviews for Apple products?
  • I read the text of that bill, since it's short, and there's no restriction on paying people to leave positive or negative reviews. Sounds like something could be done where an expensive service is coupled with a large bounty (paid to customers only) for positive reviews. Of course, the IRS would want their cut of the additional customer income.
  • by iamacat ( 583406 )

    Mr Obama, tear down this wall! Once pot is legal across 50 states, Trump will face an enormous backlash trying to change that.

  • The summary leaves out several very important limits on this new law:

    1. It does not apply to business that don't sell directly in interstate commerce. (This is narrower than the usual "affecting commerce" language Congress likes to use.) So your local lawn-care service for example may be exempt.

    2. It only applies to businesses that use "form" contracts.

    3. It only applies to those "form" contracts if the customer does not have a meaningful opportunity to negotiate.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Thursday December 15, 2016 @11:34PM (#53495093)

    The law doesn't say you cannot be sued. The law makes certain contractual terms void.

    The possibility still exists that you could be sued.

    Your chance of victory may be higher and your cost of winning that suit might be lower than otherwise.

  • In a nut shell? What's in a nutshell? Do I need a cracker? Do we have a squirrel infestation? The expression bugs me.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"

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