PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Online reviews of everything can be found all over the Internet, so when Jen Palmer of Salt Lake City had a bone to pick with a business, “I wrote a review online because we had bad customer service and that’s what you do.”
The company, a gift store called KlearGear.com, wrote back with a warning.
“’We’re going to fine you $3,500 if you don’t take the review down within 72 hours,’” Palmer said they wrote.
KlearGear’s terms of service included a “non-disparagement clause,” some call a “gag clause,” in part, to prevent people from posting negative reviews online.
KlearGear called it an effort “to prevent the publishing of libelous content.”
Pittsburgh attorney Jim Lieber says more online businesses are trying to gag consumers because they are trying to protect “their Internet reputations and pretty heavy-handed about it at times.”
On Wednesday, congressional lawmakers held a hearing over a bill to make gag clauses illegal.
“It’s happening every day across the country,” says U.S. Sen. John Thune.
Like a diet pill manufacturer accused of threatening to sue customers critical of their products, and a New York hotel that told guests a negative review would cost them $500.
“We are not the only victims,” Palmer told Congress on Wednesday.
Palmer testified she did not remove the post or pay the $3,500 fine, so KlearGear reported it as a delinquent debt, ruining her family’s credit for years.
“I hope nobody ever has to go through that nightmare. I hope no one has to feel scared, humiliated, and bullied by a business,” she adds.
Lieber told KDKA money editor Jon Delano that it’s very troubling because Palmer was just writing the truth online.
Delano: “Could it happen in Pennsylvania?”
Lieber: “I have not heard of it happening in Pennsylvania. Could it happen in Pennsylvania? Absolutely.”
Palmer sued KlearGear and won, but is pressing Congress to ban these gag clauses.