New California Law Protects Online Reviewers

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A new law prohibits businesses from using disparagement clauses to silence potential online critics.

If you receive horrible food and even worse customer service the next time you eat out, you can post a scathing online review of the restaurant without fear of punishment, at least if you live in California.

A new law in the Golden State provides legal protection for online critics, the Los Angeles Times said. The new law, proposed by Democratic Assemblyman John A. Pérez of Los Angeles, is meant to prohibit businesses from going after customers who post negative online reviews about their products or services.

The law prevents retailers from including disparagement clauses, which prohibit negative online comments, in their terms and conditions. The LAT said:

Pérez, the former Assembly speaker, said his bill, AB 2365, “is an important consumer protection for Californians.”

“No consumer should ever face penalties for voicing their opinions on the services or products they have purchased, and California law is now clear that no company has the ability to silence consumers,” he said in a statement.

According to Time, California businesses that attempt to enforce disparagement clauses will now be faced with paying a civil penalty of $2,500 for their first offense and $5,000 for each repeated infraction, plus an additional $10,000 fine for “a willful, intentional, or reckless violation” of the statute.

The new law appears to be the first of its kind in the U.S., CNN said.

It is really necessary? Don’t we have free speech? Apparently some businesses don’t think so.

“Last month, Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y., was featured in the New York Post for trying to fine wedding parties $500 for each negative online review by a member of their parties,” CNN said.

What do you think of California’s new law protecting online critics? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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