Contracts could limit your ability to post online reviews

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by JESSE JONES / KING 5

Bio | Email | Follow: @getjesse

KING5.com

Posted on May 22, 2014 at 11:20 PM

Karina had plans for a picture perfect wedding, but then her photographer backed out at the last minute.

”I just kind of was uncomfortable with their lack of responses and their kind of run around,” said Karina.

The business was able to skip out because of a cancellation clause in their contract.  Karina posted an online review to warn other brides.  A few days later she got an email telling her to remove the post or face legal action for breach of contract.

It turns out Karina’s contract contained an agreement that said neither party could disparage the other.

”I was so upset that A, I couldn’t review a vendor, and B, that you would email me, almost threateningly,” explained Karina. “I think I felt bullied.”

Noah Davis is an attorney.  He said contractors, plumbers, dentists and even online retailers are now using these clauses.  It’s because they’re worried about negative reviews impacting their online reputation.  Davis said these clauses fall into a legal grey area.

”It’s hard to really put a finger on how the courts are going to rule on these sorts of things,” explained Davis.

Before signing a contract, look for words like “confidentiality,” “non-review” or “non-disparagement.”  If you find a non-disparagement clause, ask why it’s there and try to negotiate it out.

As for Karina, she took down her review to avoid the legal hassle.  Bottom line: understand everything in a contract before signing.  If you have an issue, try to get the company to work with you before making your case online.  Otherwise you could find yourself arguing your point in a court of law.
 

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