A few years ago, Yelp championed passage of the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) — more commonly known as the “Right to Yelp” bill. The goal of this federal law is to protect consumers’ ability to share feedback online by prohibiting businesses from including “gag clauses” in consumer form contracts. And it’s done just that, as evidenced by recent action taken by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) solely focused on enforcing CRFA.
Gag clauses are an attempt by businesses to control their online reputations by fining or suing consumers for leaving negative reviews or, in the case of Las Vegas Trail Riding, even for contacting animal control about how they treat their horses. Such provisions are often non-negotiable and buried deep in the fine print of contracts where they are intentionally placed by businesses to dupe consumers.
Businesses use these predatory clauses to silence potential critics through legal threats and to tip the scales in their favor when it comes to building their online reputations. This stands in direct conflict with Yelp’s mission of connecting consumers with great local businesses by providing consumers access to reliable and useful information.
The FTC negotiated settlements with three companies — Waldron HVAC, Las Vegas Trail Riding, and National Floors Direct — that were reported by consumers for violating the CRFA. The settlement terms include barring the companies from offering form contracts with review-limiting provisions in the future, and informing consumers with whom they’ve already entered into form contracts containing gag clauses that these provisions are void.
We’re thrilled to see the FTC protect consumers’ rights to share their experiences online by enforcing CRFA. Consumers have come to rely on platforms like ours to make informed decisions about where to spend their time and money. And as part of our Consumer Protection Initiative, we’ll continue to advocate for their right to do so.
To read more about the FTC’s actions, click here.