Daines Works to Protect Consumers from Backlash Over Online Reviews

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today announced that he has signed onto bipartisan legislation to protect consumers who want to write honest online reviews of companies, without fear of financial repercussions from the businesses being reviewed. 

Daines is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer Review Freedom Act, which would prohibit the use of non-disparagement clauses referred to as “gag clauses,” which are often found in little-read online user agreements. 

Businesses can use these clauses to penalize or fine customers for negative but honest reviews of their services on websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. Non-disparagement clauses stifle consumer speech by silencing fair criticism in public forums, particularly on websites.

The Consumer Review Freedom Act received its first Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation legislative hearing last week. At the hearing, Daines underscored the importance of protecting consumers who seek to write online reviews.

Click here to download Daines’ remarks.

Click here to watch Daines’ remarks.

“Feedback is a gift,” Daines stated. “I think it’s insecure companies, like bullies on a playground that are insecure, that have these anti-disparagement clauses. Welcome to the free markets of the Internet. Let’s compete and let the consumer have its voice.” 

An example of a non-disparagement clause was found in the Utah case of Palmer v. KlearGear.com, where a website demanded a customer remove a negative online review or pay $3,500 in damages because the website’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the customer refused to pay the penalty, the website reported the $3,500 to credit reporting agencies as an unpaid debt.

The Consumer Review Freedom Act would prohibit business practices like the example above, while still allowing business owners to sue reviewers who make dishonest misrepresentations about their business.

Similar bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2110, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

Click here for a copy of the legislation.