Protecting Free Speech: Federal “Gag Clause Ban” One Step Closer to Law

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act (HR. 5111), which would ban so-called “gag clauses” — provisions that prohibit posting feedback about goods and services — in consumer form contracts nationwide. Yelp applauds the House for quickly moving on this bill. The protection of free speech and expression, both online and off, should be a top priority of our government, and all Americans.

Why does this matter to you?

An increasing number of unscrupulous businesses have tried to insert gag clauses into the fine print they present to consumers. These clauses, which are often hidden deep in non-negotiable contracts, purport to give businesses permission to sue or fine their clients (i.e., consumers just like you!) for posting reviews.

We recently wrote an op-ed about a pet-sitting company in Texas that didn’t like a review one of their customers posted on Yelp, and tried to silence them with a $1 million lawsuit claiming that the review violated the business’s gag clause and also defamed it. Fortunately, Texas has strong free speech protections for consumers, and the lawsuit was quickly thrown out of court. However, most states lack these protections, leading to inconsistent outcomes in these sort of cases that can vary based on where a consumer happens to have been sued.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act would prohibit businesses everywhere from using gag clauses to silence consumers, protecting your right to free speech and expression. With a similar bill having already passed the Senate, it is our hope that gag clauses will soon be explicitly prohibited across America by the end of the year.

If you want to get involved, call your members of Congress and let them know you support legislation that protects your ability to share your honest opinions and experiences online.