Can you sign away your right to criticize a company you do business with?
Apparently, some company executives think you can and may try to charge you a lot of money if you say anything bad about them.
It seems that back in 2008, a couple from Utah bought some merchandise from an online retailer.
According to the couple, the merchandise was never delivered, the transaction was canceled, and phone calls to the company went unanswered. So, the couple wrote a negative review on the complaint portal Ripoff Report.
The company has also reported the couple to at least one credit agency, which has had a negative impact on their credit report.
I checked the company website, and the restriction on negative comments has been removed.
Needless to say, the couple is fighting the fine, and a consumer rights group has filed a $75,000 lawsuit against the company for filing a false report to credit agencies.
However, the scary thing is that this is not an unusual case.
In 2011, a Virginia woman posted negative reviews about a contractor who she said had done a poor job. The contractor filed a $750,000 libel suit against the woman in response to her online
And a few years ago, a Microsoft end user license agreement said you could not use any of its products to disparage the software company.
A central question here is whether these cases are based on contract law or constitutional law.
But until the courts decide, the best course is what we have always said about online communications: Be careful what you say and whom you say it to.