As more and more companies use non-disparagement clauses in their Terms of Service and other contracts with their consumers, it can feel to customers like they have no outlet to talk about their negative experiences with certain businesses. Congress has proposed a bill called the Consumer Review Freedom Act, which would prohibit companies from retaliating against consumers who leave negative reviews, but the law is slow to catch up with technology. Fortunately, there are other ways to deal with these non-disparagement clauses without resorting to the courts.
Review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Trip Advisor can take the initiative and help punish businesses who have been known to prohibit customers from posting negative reviews. Yelp will take down any reviews that have been posted by anyone who was not a consumer or did not have a direct experience with the specific business being reviewed, but that doesn’t always help consumers and there’s more that can be done.
Angie’s List has a “penalty box” in which businesses that do not sufficiently respond to consumer complaints get excluded from category and keyword searches. Only users of the site who know the name of the business can find it, which can seriously injure the business by preventing potential new customers in the area from finding it. Many businesses depend on consumer review sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp, so by making it more difficult for potential customers to find them, the sites can provide a serious incentive for businesses not to try to mess with their consumers’ reviews. Trip Advisor also has a penalty sign it displays on pages where it has detected instances of possible fraud. Continue reading ›