Buyer Beware: The Non-Disparagement Clause

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In the age of Yelp and ubiquitous product reviews, consumers may think that they are safe to voice their unfiltered opinion of an experience they’ve had with a brand. Alas, that’s not quite the case.

Thanks (or no thanks) to non-disparagement clauses, companies are allowed to take legal action against customers who post negative reviews if the review could hurt the company’s bottom line. The clauses are currently allowed in every U.S. state, with the exception of California.

non-dispSenator John Thune (R, SD) is fighting for legislation that bans such ‘gag’ clauses nationwide.

“This is really sort of online bullying, when you intimidate and create an atmosphere of fear, that a consumer can’t express their views about a product or service online.”

The flip side of the controversy argues that the non-disparagement clause protects the company from defamation and false allegations that may be detrimental to the health of the business.

So what say you? Are non-disparagement clauses an infringement on free speech? Or are they a justifiable measure against damaging online reviews?

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