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 ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall 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) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions 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.