You are in a restaurant, you order your meal, you are relaxing and looking forward to the food that is coming. When you meal finally arrives at your table, you are surprised, as it is not what you expected. You ask the waiter for an explanation, and instead of explaining and apologizing, he leaves you with the food and proceeds to serve the next customer. You get so angry about the way you were treated that you decide to go online and you leave a negative Yelp review for the restaurant. This is one way you feel your voice can be heard and you can let others know about your experience. Days later, you receive a court order. It seems the restaurant owner is now suing you for the negative review of his restaurant.
This has happened to many people who never had the slightest clue that they could be sued for a simple service review, but it has been a nightmare to those who have had to deal with this situation. The good news is that there is are pending federal laws which are intended to protect consumers from retribution from business owners when they express their opinions online. Everybody has a right to an opinion as long as your opinion is not considered slander. These laws include:
1) Consumer Review Fairness Act HR5111
This law, nicknamed the “Right to Yelp Act” basically states that business owners cannot ask their customers to sign waivers stating they will not leave negative comments about their business online.
2) Speak Free Act HR2304.
This law is designed to create a legal stronghold for the defendant in a lawsuit over the thoughts that they have expressed publicly.
Although not everyone is backing this law, Professor Alexander Reinert believes that this law would bring the barrier to important civil rights and public interest litigation.Yelp is among other companies who are in support of this bill, which is expected to pass soon, and they believe it will be of help to many of their clients. Laurent Crenshaw, a director of public policy at Yelp, said that if these laws are passed, they would give clarity to their reviewers that they have protection for their fact-based honest online opinions.
On the other hand Mitchel Landberg, an LA attorney is of the view that both laws will make it easier for a disgruntled customer, former employees and the competitors to misuse the online forums. This is because you are now free to leave any comment you feel like, some people can easily use the forum for defamation.
To protect their reviewers, Yelp is red flagging the review sites of the companies that sue its users with a red box. They want the reviewers to be aware of the fact that they sue, and if someone decides to leave a negative Yelp review, they are writing their credible opinions, which they are willing to stand behind. It is crucial to note that Yelp does not take responsibility if you get sued, but they will direct you to where you can find legal assistance.
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