The Consumer Review Fairness Act protects consumers’ ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct in any forum – and that includes social media.
The Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) protects people’s ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct, in any forum, including social media.
Contracts that prohibit honest reviews, or threaten legal action over them, harm people who rely on reviews when making their purchase decisions. But another group is also harmed when others try to squelch honest negative reviews: businesses that work hard to earn positive reviews.
The Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed in response to reports that some businesses try to prevent people from giving honest reviews about products or services they received. Some companies put contract provisions in place, including in their online terms and conditions, that allowed them to sue or penalize consumers for posting negative reviews.
What kind of reviews does the law protect?
The law protects a broad variety of honest consumer assessments, including online reviews, social media posts, uploaded photos, videos, etc. And it doesn’t just cover product reviews. It also applies to consumer evaluations of a company’s customer service.
What does the Consumer Review Fairness Act prohibit?
In summary, the Act makes it illegal for a company to use a contract provision that:
-- bars or restricts the ability of a person who is a party to that contract to review a company’s products, services, or conduct;
What specific conduct is prohibited by the statute?
- -- imposes a penalty or fee against someone who gives a review; or
- -- requires people to give up their intellectual property rights in the content of their reviews.
The Consumer Review Fairness Act makes it illegal for companies to include standardized provisions that threaten or penalize people for posting honest reviews. For example, in an online transaction, it would be illegal for a company to include a provision in its terms and conditions that prohibits or punishes negative reviews by customers. (The law doesn’t apply to employment contracts or agreements with independent contractors, however.)
If a business threatens you over a negative review you gave or claims you agreed not to post negative review in the first place
Call the Oregon Attorney General's Consumer Protection Complaint Hotline at 877-877-9392 and report the business!
The terrific organization "Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety" (aka CARS) has put an awful lot of work into figuring out how to make the purchase of a used car as successful for the buyer as possible -- here is their best wisdom, in one easy list.
Having published a number of these over the years, let me repeat one point:
If you think you can't afford an independent pre-purchase inspection for any car you are seriously interested in, you can't afford the car, period.
Letting the dealer suggest or pick the mechanic to inspect the car you are thinking about buying for you or, even worse, relying on the dealer's own opinion or that of the dealer's mechanic is like letting your blackjack opponent decide whether you should take additional cards: you will end up busted every time.
Car dealers are NOT in the business of helping you buy the best car at the lowest price.
Their only business is making as much money as they can, and used cars are just the means to that end.
In other words, used car dealers are in the business of selling you the least car they can unload on you at the highest price possible, with as much unnecessary garbage packed into the contract as you will swallow.
Making as much money from each customer as possible is the only religion of the used car dealer, and if some car salesman or finance manager has you thinking otherwise -- well, pardner, remember the old saying: if you don't know who the sucker at the poker table is, it's you.
The only people who get the better cars for the best prices are the people who follow the 11* steps below.
How to Buy a Used Car
Clients called me today about a "You Have Won" letter they got -- or thought they got today.
They struggle with age-related issues, but the check in the envelope was so well-done that it could likely fool 99 out of 100 people into thinking it was genuine.
Thankfully, the letter that came with the check gave off such a strong stench of scam that the clients were able to resist taking the bait long enough to call me instead of calling the phone number in the letter (or, worse, depositing the check and spending from it).
This is a really high-quality fraudulent check scam, a tribute to the wonders of digital printing. Glad the scammers' cover letter was so terrible.
But it’s a warning — with a check this good, eventually they will come up with an equally good cover letter.
Remember always, always, always:
Money NEVER calls you on the phone or
Arrives in your Mailbox Out of the Blue
EDITORIAL: Building a Better World, Together
In our November 2016 column, we highlighted the Consumer Review Fairness Act, then a bill in Congress that aimed at protecting consumers' voices within the marketplace. Since then, both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill came together to send the bill to President Obama, who signed it into law before he left office.
The Act puts an end to one of the more disgraceful practices we've seen in online commerce.
The lowdown: Companies that sold products and/or services were trying to stop consumers from posting negative online reviews about what they'd bought by burying "gag orders" or "non-disparagement clauses" deep within the fine print of their purchase contracts or terms of service. Those clauses said that all consumers who bought the product or service "agreed" never to say anything negative about the experience and "agreed" to be subject to penalties if they did complain. And companies tried to enforce the clauses, too. A couple in Utah, for example, was hit with a $3,500 penalty for posting a negative review. When they refused to pay, the debt was reported to the credit bureaus. And consumers in Texas were sued for a bad review of a pet-sitting service, which asked for a million dollars in damages.
John Gear is a Salem attorney.