Many consumers depend on online reviews before they travel, book a restaurant, or a buy a product or service, so those who post reviews online may believe they are helping others, but some companies will try to take action if the review is negative.
Until recently, companies were able to include non-disparagement clauses in their agreements that allowed them to threaten customers with penalties over negative reviews.
“We know of one Utah couple who was billed a $3,500 penalty after complaining in a post about a company’s failed delivery,” Consumer Reports Money Editor Margot Gilman said. “A court later ruled that they didn’t have to pay, but not before their credit took a hit.”
A new federal law bars companies from inserting non-disparagement clauses that threaten or penalize people for posting negative reviews.
Consumer Reports says you should still watch what you say.
“First of all, your review has to be honest and accurate,” Gilman said. “Companies can still successfully sue you for defamation if you make a false statement that can damage their reputation.”
Also, when posting a review, don’t generalize. Just speak about your own particular experience.
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If the company reaches out to try to offer an explanation after you’ve complained, consider changing or deleting your comment if you find it was incorrect or not supported by the facts. Let the company know you did so but without admitting wrongdoing.