Congressman Joe Kennedy

Representing the 4th District of Massachusetts

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KENNEDY, LANCE INTRO BILL TO PROTECT CONSUMER REVIEWS

Apr 28, 2016
Press Release
Legislation would bar companies from attempts to silence customer opinions online

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) today joined Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) in introducing the Consumer Review Fairness Act, legislation that will ensure American consumers can post honest business reviews and feedback online without fear of retribution. 

The legislation is in response to reports of companies using secretive “non-disparagement” clauses in their terms of service to try to bar customers from posting negative reviews of a product, service or experience. Along with Kennedy and Lance, the bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who have led legislative efforts on this issue in the past.  It is backed by online review platforms like TripAdvisor, which is based in Congressman Kennedy’s district. 

“Consumers have an undeniable right to voice their concerns with a business, product or service when their experience fails to meet expectations,” said Congressman Kennedy. “By eliminating secretive non-disparagement clauses, the Consumer Review Fairness Act would ensure companies can never retaliate against customers for simply expressing an opinion. I thank Congressmen Lance, Swalwell and Issa for their partnership in addressing this issue and strengthening protections for consumers.”

“Consumers in the 21st century economy should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution.  Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online.  In 2016 online platforms are where consumers turn to praise or criticize their shopping, eating or traveling experiences.  They should be able to do so without harassment from companies eager to protect an image,” said Congressman Lance.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act would void any non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts if they restrict consumers from publicly reviewing products or businesses accurately and would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to take action against businesses that insert these provisions into their contracts.  It also would ensure companies still are able to take action against individuals who post false and defamatory reviews.

The legislation is supported by online review platforms like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Glassdoor as well as the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Internet Association, Demand Progress, Engine, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Public Participation Project. 

"TripAdvisor whole-heartedly supports the introduction of the Consumer Review Fairness Act by Representatives Lance and Kennedy,” said Adam Medros, Senior Vice President of Global Product at TripAdvisor. “Consumer reviews have become an integral part of many Americans’ purchasing decisions.  In the same way that you can tell your friends and family about a good or bad experience you had with a company or product, you also have a fundamental right to share that experience online.  While most businesses understand that such reviews offer businesses and consumers alike the ability to learn and benefit from others’ experiences, a number of unscrupulous businesses have attempted to bully or intimidate their customers from sharing their negative experiences. We strongly believe that every American has ‘the right to write’ and these attempts to stifle free speech are against everything we stand for at TripAdvisor."

Congressmen Kennedy and Lance are both members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee; Lance serves as Vice-Chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee, to which this legislation will be referred.

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For Immediate Release:
April 28, 2016
 
Contact:
Emily Kaufman (617) 332-3333
Dan Black (202) 225-5931

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