California legally ensures “Yelp Bill” – the right to criticize

The State of California recently forbid anti-disparagement clauses within consumer contracts. This will stop companies from penalizing their customers publishing negative reviews.

post September, 2014

California legally ensures “Yelp Bill” – the right to criticize

Imagine you are just about to marry your beloved partner. You have found a nice hotel in New York to celebrate this special day with your family and friends… and then get badly disappointed by the service, food or general quality offered.

In consequence, you and your hotel guests write negative reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor to warn future couples not to do the same mistake you did. You would expect to have every right to express your frustration, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t expect to pay thousands of dollars to do this, would you?

There are a lot of companies all over the U.S. that, just like this New York Hotel, penalizing people for publishing negative reviews. In this case, the bridal pair had to pay $500 for each single negative review posted online! Don’t tell me you did not read the small print…

Since this is not fair at all and totally not in line with any freedom of speech, the most populated U.S. state, California, issued a law forbidding to integrate such provisions within consumer contracts. Companies ignoring this law could face fines up to $5,000. The maximum penalty is $10,000 for “willful, intentional, or reckless” violations.

“California’s new law is an important recognition that corporations should not be allowed to use the law’s coercive power to suppress valuable speech about how businesses serve consumers,” says David Gans, civil rights director for the Constitutional Accountability Center.

This is the first U.S. legal act of this kind underlining once again the growing importance of written reviews as the major indicator for consumer decisions.

This post is based on an article published on Inc.com: Read the full story

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Torsten Sabel

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