Congressman Leonard Lance

Representing the 7th District of New Jersey

Lance, Kennedy: Protect Consumer Rights

Apr 28, 2016
Press Release
Legislation would bar companies from attempts to silence customer opinions online

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07), Vice Chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, today joined his colleague Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04) in introducing the Consumer Review Fairness Act, legislation that will allow Americans to exercise their First Amendment rights regarding consumer experiences without fear of retribution.

Consumers in the 21st century economy should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution.  Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online.  In 2016 online platforms are where consumers turn to praise or criticize their shopping, eating or traveling experiences.  They should be able to do so without harassment from companies eager to protect an image,” said Lance, the Vice Chair of the subcommittee where the legislation will be referred.

A consumer has a right to voice their concerns with a business, product or service,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III. “By eliminating secretive non-disparagement clauses, the Consumer Review Fairness Act would ensure companies can never retaliate against customers for simply expressing an opinion. I thank Congressmen Lance, Swalwell and Issa for their partnership in addressing this issue and strengthening protections for consumers.”

In today’s economy it is easier than ever for consumers to make informed choices on which business or service to use by consulting websites and apps that publish crowdsourced reviews of local businesses and restaurants.  Consumer reviews are a powerful informational tool because consumers place a high value on the truthful reviews of other consumers.  A number of businesses have become frustrated by online criticism and some have employed a questionable legal remedy known as a non-disparagement clause to retaliate against consumers.  These are often buried in fine print.  The Consumer Review Fairness Act would void any non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts if they restrict consumers from publicly reviewing products or businesses accurately and would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to take action against businesses that insert these provisions into their contracts.  It also would ensure companies still are able to take action against individuals who post false and defamatory reviews.

Reps. Darrell Issa (CA-49) and Eric Swalwell (CA-15) are original cosponsors.