Before Trump, the US House of Representatives once got other work done. In November they unanimously (when life was harmonious) passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act. The act will protect customers from businesses if they leave negative feedback.

Why did they pass the Consumer Review Fairness Act?

Well, many businesses were putting gag clauses into their fine print so that people can’t write bad reviews online. And there were a few extreme cases of businesses taking outrageous steps to seek retribution on disgruntled customers.

Publications including the New York Post and Business Insider picked up on the story of a hotel in New York state informing guests that any bad reviews would result in a $500 fine, charged directly to their credit card. In another incident, newlyweds had to agree to not ‘encourage’ negative feedback. And last year a Texas petsitting company sued a couple $1M for a negative Yelp review.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act invalidates those gag clauses and gives the Federal Trade Commission the power to go after any business that tries to pressure its customers into leaving a good review.

Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ) saw it as an issue which touched on freedom of speech and the First Amendment:

This bill is about protecting consumers posting honest feedback online. Online reviews and ratings are critical in the 21st Century and consumers 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. That needs to stop.

We agree. It’s the right of the customer to be able to honestly share their feelings and experiences about the things they buy.

Is it bad news for businesses?

Not really.

Here at Reevoo, we know the power of bad reviews. If dealt with properly (read our guide), negative feedback – or in other words, honest feedback – can lead to greater customer satisfaction and improved product development.

Consumers spend more than five times as long on site when they see bad reviews. Increased trust means consumers convert nearly 85% more often. The UK government knows that – Last year it updated guidelines for businesses dealing with online reviews.

The bottom line: the bad press that comes with trying to silence bad reviews is too much of a risk. Brands that welcome feedback – good and bad – and use it to nourish their business will be a lot healthier in the long run.

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The US has passed a Consumer Review Fairness Act