The Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 – New consumer protection legislation passed in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
While it seems everyone is running around Capitol Hill screaming “The Sky is Falling!” our elected officials have been working hard to get some things done before the new President takes over. It was hardly the big political headline of December, but the House and the Senate recently passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act to protect the right of the consumer to make honest reviews of businesses, even if that feedback is negative.
New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance, Vice Chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, spearheaded this legislation. His press release for the signing of the Consumer Review Fairness Act discussed the high value of reviews and the importance of protecting consumers while still allowing companies to remove false and defamatory reviews:
“This law is about protecting consumers posting honest feedback online. Online reviews and ratings are critical in the 21st Century and consumers 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. This will now end.”
The press release also reinforces that crowdsourced reviews of local businesses and services are a powerful informational tool and that it is important to maintain the integrity of reviews to protect consumers.
Why do we need a Consumer Review Fairness Act?
Businesses are overwhelmingly aware of the importance of five-star customer reviews and their influence over consumer purchasing decisions. Some of the more ruthless companies have gone so far as to include gag orders or non-disparagement clauses in the terms and conditions on their websites.
A typical clause explains that you are not allowed to make negative comments about a business on social media or review sites or risk fines or lawsuits. You read T&C statements on the contracts and websites of companies you visit, work with, and buy from before leaving a review or making a comment online, right? Of course not!
Customers have been leaving reviews, unaware that they could be penalized for writing a bad review or writing negative posts on social media. In the “fine print” you may find that your contractor had you sign that you would never make a written or verbal disparaging remark about their business or face a fine. A bad review on the sloppy work of your carpet cleaner could land you a lawsuit. The Consumer Review Fairness Act was written to protect consumers from penalties for sharing their honest opinions.
What is the Consumer Review Fairness Act?
Introduced in April, the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 was passed in the House in September and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent on November 28. Signed by US House Speaker Paul Ryan and Congressman Leonard Lance, it is now in the office of the President of the United States.
Here is a snippet from the Congressional summary of the Consumer Review Fairness Act:
How does the Consumer Review Fairness Act affect your business?
It’s not called the “Protect Business From Bad Reviews Act” so you might be worried that protecting the consumer might in some way hurt your business. However, there is no need to worry about restrictions on businesses. Unless you are one of those shifty businesses who like to sue customers for bad reviews, the Consumer Review Fairness Act won’t directly affect how you do business. What it does do is even the playing field, so all business will have to earn their five-star rating the right way – with great products and customer service.
The Consumer Review Fairness Act voids non-disparagement clauses in contracts and terms and conditions statements. That means business will no longer be able to penalize customers for negative reviews. If they do, they will have to deal with the Federal Trade Commission.
Review sites such as Yelp are already onboard. Fewer lawsuits is good business for them, especially when they are usually stuck in the middle of a fight between a business and a customer. They’ve gone so far as to issue Consumer Alerts boldly above the fold of business listings which are known to sue customers for reviews.
Build and Manage a Genuine Five-Star Reputation
Gathering feedback and posting positive reviews online has many benefits for all businesses. Online reputation management actively establishes your credibility as a reliable business and gives your company a competitive edge over others in your industry and in your local area. It helps you position your business as the first and best choice when customers are researching online before making a decision where to spend their money.
Use reputation management services like Reputation Loop to save precious time, gather more five-star reviews, and have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your reputation marketing is automated and handled at every level. Your customers are being asked for their feedback, you are notified of dissatisfied customers before they get to review sites, and the best reviews are being promoted on the review sites and social networks that matter most to your business in an almost hands-free automated process.
You can learn more about online reputation management and steps you can take to better position your business by subscribing to the ReputationLoop.com blog.
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