East Hawaii News

Consumer Review Freedom Act Passed by Senate

December 14, 2015, 4:49 PM HST
* Updated December 14, 4:51 PM
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The Consumer Review Freedom Act, S. 2044, was unanimously passed Monday by the United States Senate.

Hawai’i Senator Brian Schatz, a Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee ranking member, was among the individuals who introduced the legislation, along with Chairman John Thune and Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran.

On Nov. 18, the Commerce Committee approved the bill, following a Nov. 4 hearing with testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, the plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where the company demanded that either a negative online review be removed or the payment of $3,500 in fines because of the merchant’s terms of service that included a non-disparagement clause.

When Palmer did not remove the review or pay the fine, the company reported the unpaid money to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt.

The legislation provides consumers the ability to leave honest reviews without concern of being punished or penalized for comments.

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“This legislation is very simple. A person should be able to give their honest review of a good or service they purchase online without fear of facing a penalty for their opinion,” said Senator Schatz. “Online reviews help consumers make better choices and that’s why we must end the practice of unfair non-disparagement clauses.”

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Under the Consumer Review Freedom Act, practices of penalizing or pursing fines for customers because of negative, but honest reviews on websites like Yelp or TripAdvior is banned.

The bill was co-sponsored by the full committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Bill Nelson, and Senators Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Steve Daines, and Claire McCaskill.

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