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Protecting Free Speech: The “Right to Yelp” Bill Becomes Federal Law

Put on your party pants, folks, because today is a big day! The Consumer Review Fairness Act has been signed into law by President Obama, banning “gag clause” provisions in consumer-form contracts that seek to prevent people from writing negative reviews online.

We recently shared a blog post on this bill, when it passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Amazingly, just a few months later (which is really a blink of an eye when it comes to bills moving through Congress) the Senate and President quickly made the bill law! In a climate of hyper-partisanship, getting a law passed that will empower and protect consumer speech online is something all Americans should be excited about.

We commend Rep. Leonard Lance, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, Sen. John Thune and Sen. Brian Schatz for their leadership on this issue, as well as Rep. Darrell Issa and Rep. Eric Swalwell for leading the charge with a similar bill in 2015. Additionally, a big thank you goes out to the countless Yelpers, organizations, associations and companies that shared their support and advocated for the passage of the Consumer Review Fairness Act.

The history behind Yelp’s Consumer Protection Initiative

The push to ban gag clauses in consumer form contracts began more than two years ago after a couple from Utah was forced to defend their right to write a negative review against a business that attempted to fine them for it.

The state of California led the push by passing its own law — which some affectionately dubbed the “Yelp Bill” — in 2014. We were a big supporter of this legislation and worked with California State Assemblyman and former speaker John Perez’s office on this issue.

Why? One of our top priorities has always been to protect the ability for internet users — everyone from Yelpers to proud picture-posting puppy parents to online shoppers — to share their experiences online, whether they be positive or negative. We will continue to advocate on both state and federal levels for legislation to protect consumers.


Photo: Martin Falbisoner