Congress passes bill protecting online customer reviews

Congress passes bill protecting online customer reviews
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The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that would bar companies from fining or pursuing lawsuits against consumers who post negative reviews of them on websites such as Yelp.

In September, the House also unanimously passed the measure prohibiting non-disparagement clauses that some institutions included in their online terms of service.

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The bill now heads to President Obama’s desk.

“By ending gag clauses, this legislation supports consumer rights and the integrity of critical feedback about products and services sold online,” Senate Commerce Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneAviation panel recommends Trump roll back safety rules Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule Overnight Tech: Senate looks at self-driving trucks | Facebook to keep ads off fake news | House panel calls Equifax CEO to testify MORE (R-S.D.) said in a statement, praising the bipartisan effort to move forward on the bill. Thune had sponsored the legislation in the Senate alongside Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIT modernization measure included in Senate-approved defense policy bill Campaign video touts apprenticeships making Trump commemorative coins Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats MORE (R-Kan.).

“Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online,” Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), who sponsored the bill in the House, said in a statement. “This will now end.”

The Internet Association, a trade group whose members include major internet companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Yelp, applauded the move.

“Enshrining protections for freedom of expression online into law allows the internet to thrive,” they said. “‘Gag clauses’ in form contracts harm consumers and violate both American principles of free speech and the values inherent in a free and open internet.”

The Senate Commerce Committee had held a hearing in 2015 on gag clauses spurred by Palmer v. KlearGear, a federal lawsuit in which KlearGear, an e-commerce site, stipulated that customers may not disparage it online.