California has become the first state to pass law protecting right to post negative reviews online. The Governor Jerry Brown signed “Yelp Bill” into law making it illegal for businesses to reprise or fine customers for posting negative reviews online. Businesses that violate the law would be fined $10,000. The residents of the state now have freedom to make their dissatisfaction known online writing as many negative reviews on Yelp as they want.
Negative online reviews can have negative impact on company`s image, a hit that companies want to avoid at all costs. Some businesses stung by bad reviews have taken to «non-disparagement clauses» to punish consumers for negative reviews. Some of these clauses included in consumers` contracts threaten fines or legal action for saying anything negative about company on sites like Yelp.
In one case, customers of a New York hotel were charged $500 for each negative review. Later the hotel was forced to reside the policy in the face of a backlash. A customer of the Internet retailer KlearGear was billed $350 for violation of an «anti-disparagement» clause. When the customer rejected to pay, the retailer informed a credit agency about the incident.
There have much more reported instances of fining consumers for negative reviews, however, “Yelp bill” apparently was inspired by the following issue. A couple in Utah, which had their credit score damaged after being fined $3,500 for unintentionally violating a retailer`s “Terms of Sale” contract by writing a negative review, according to Assembly Speaker John Pérez, the author of the bill. A similar legislation will be introduced at the national level in the nearest future.
Customer reviews play an important role in forming the online environment and help consumers make purposeful choice. We all definitely should have right to make our dissatisfaction known online and avoid businesses reprisal for posting negative reviews on the sites like Yelp.