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Congress backs bill on customer rights for online review

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2011

    Yelp’s office in New York.

WASHINGTON >> Congress today cleared legislation to ensure that customers who want to post negative reviews on websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor can do so without legal repercussions.

The Senate passed the measure by voice vote today. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama.

Supporters of the bipartisan bill say it is needed to ensure freedom of speech in a growing online economy. It was written in response to businesses that have made customers sign non-disparagement clauses and then sued if a bad review showed up.

“The internet is supposed to be an open forum for the free exchange of ideas of all kind,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “But how free is that exchange, really, if it’s been cherry-picked and censored to weed out things some people find unfavorable? The bill we’ve now sent to the president’s desk will ensure that the internet remains a place where the freedom of speech can thrive and protect honest consumers from retaliatory litigation.”

In one case, a Dallas couple was sued by a pet-sitting company for up to $1 million after giving the company a one-star review on Yelp and complaining that their fish had been overfed. The case was dismissed this past summer.

The House passed the bill, backed by Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., and Republican Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey, in September. Kennedy, who represents Needham, Mass.-based TripAdvisor, had said fair reviews are important to strengthen the so-called “sharing economy,” which allows consumers to exchange products, services and ideas.

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  • It is amazing that in this country where we pride ourselves on free speech that it can be sanctioned when a consumer speaks his or her truth. The only people that would oppose this free speech are bad business who would rather hide behind ‘fake” reviews which can be bought and sold. Yelp, although it claims to not be influenced by sponsors or businesses that subscribe to their services, have shown in the past to practice shady actions such as threatening non-members with negative reviews. I have seen many questionable things on this site such as the filtering of negative reviews and claiming that it is a software (software can be programmed to do what you want it to do). In the oaks I have used this site to check reviews only to find a different experience when visiting the reviewed establishment.

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