Business owners won’t be able to unfairly stifle public complaints on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Foursquare – well, at least in California.
New legislation aimed at protecting consumers’ rights to leave negative reviews advanced recently in the California Assembly. The Assembly Bill 2365, which has been pushed by Assembly Speaker John Perez, is going to place fines on business owners who rely on contractual clauses to prevent their customers from leaving negative reviews in online review sites and other similar public domains and forums.
“It shall be unlawful to threaten or seek to… penalize a consumer for making any statement regarding the consumer’s experience with a seller or lessor, or its employees or agent,” according to the bill, “unless the consumer has knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his or her right to do so.”
AB 2365, which has been dubbed by many as California’s “Yelp bill,” is said to have been crafted in response to a couple in Utah who was charged $3,500 after leaving a negative review of an online retailer called KlearGear.com. The retailer penalized the couple for violating a “terms of sale” non-disparagement clause – which is exactly the sort of thing the bill is hoping to prevent.
Business owners caught threatening customers with such clauses are going to be fined $2,500 for the first offense and $5,000 for each subsequent offense.
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