In early 2017, the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA), 15 U.S.C. §45b, took effect. With the passage of this law, the Federal Trade Commission has begun using the CRFA to crack down on businesses that use non-disparagement provisions in consumer contracts to attempt to prevent consumers from posting negative reviews in order to make a product seem more favorable than it really is. To date the FTC has launched numerous investigations into suspected violations of the CRFA and has brought and settled a handful of administrative actions against companies.
The CRFA is meant to protect consumers’ ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct in any forum, including in online reviews and via social media. According to the FTC the CRFA:
makes provisions of form contracts between sellers and individual consumers void from inception if the provisions: (1) prohibit or restrict individuals from reviewing sellers’ goods, services, or conduct; (2) impose penalties or fees on individuals for such reviews; or (3) require individuals to transfer intellectual property rights in such reviews. The Act also bars sellers from offering form contracts with such provisions. The Act contains certain exceptions, including for contract provisions that bar the submission of confidential, private, or unlawful information. Continue reading ›