Lance bill to protect consumers who leave online reviews of businesses unanimously approved

September 22, 2016 news
Lance bill to protect consumers who leave online reviews of businesses unanimously approved

The House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation on Monday that U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) introduced to protect consumers who review products and services online.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act, H.R. 5111, would curb the trend of businesses using non-disparagement clauses that subject customers who post negative online reviews to legal action.

“This bill is about protecting consumers posting honest feedback online,” Lance said. “Online reviews and ratings are critical in the 21st Century and consumers should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution. Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online. That needs to stop.”

Lance’s measure would prohibit non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts, but would also ensure that companies can still remove false or defamatory reviews from the internet.

“A few months ago I visited Bovella’s Pastry Shoppe in Westfield, N.J.,” Lance said. “Bovella’s has the highest Yelp review of any bakery in that part of New Jersey. The good people at Bovella’s earned that review from their hard work and excellent customer service. They get a lot of business from people who turn to Yelp for insight on the best bakery in town. This crowdsourcing system thrives because of its integrity. People trust it. Bad actors who bully consumers are ruining the system that helps Bovella’s prosper.”

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was an original cosponsor of the bill, which was similar to the Consumer Review Freedom Act that he introduced last year.

“The internet was created to be a place where anyone can go to freely and openly share information,” Issa said. “But what good is that information really if it’s being cut down and censored by gag orders to screen out anything negative? The legislation we’ve passed today will ensure the marketplace remains open, honest and transparent by protecting consumers’ right to free speech online.”