The Dangers of Posting Negative Reviews

Now here is a story for you.

Just imagine that you buy something over the Internet and it never arrives. It happened to me once with a folding bike, and I lost my money. But at least if you use PayPal you have some chance to get your money back. Oh the benefits of hindsight!

So you buy something from a company over the Internet. The object does not turn up. You call the company, no answer, you write to them repeatedly, send them emails, try all the numbers you can find but nobody responds.

What do you do? You go on a review site and you tell the story. Well that is a dangerous game!

Reviews

Reviews

As this article on CNN explains, in 2008 John Palmer bought his wife Christmas gifts off KlearGear.com. The gifts didn’t arrive and he followed the path described above as many of us would.

More than three years later, Mr Palmer received an e-mail appearing to be from KlearGear.com stating that they would be fined $3,500 if the negative review wasn’t taken down within 72 hours.

So as any threatened person would he tried to have it removed. But the review company couldn’t remove it without entering into arbitration, costing money, so the review remained.

What about freedom of speech? Well you might well ask. When you buy something or have any contracted action with a company you might be signing away your freedom of speech. Yes, fine print.

If you look in the terms of sale and you find something like the following “Your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts KlearGear.com” as in the sale mentioned above, you waive your rights goodbye.

The company can stipulate how much you are liable for as well. Then you have to pay up or go to court, run up huge legal bills and argue that the clause is not legal.

With Christmas just round the corner, Kwanzaa and birthday presents to shop for, holidays and flights to book and many others, what are we going to do? Do we have time to read 10 pages of contractual terms each time we buy something? Would we understand it anyway?

It looks like another form of cyber-bullying to me.

5 thoughts on “The Dangers of Posting Negative Reviews

  1. Christopher Roberts

    The fine print of a companies website doesn’t affect your legal rights. Having looked at the site, it looks untrustworthy anyway; if you put up a security badge saying you are safe and certified, you probably have something to hide – none of the big, credible retailers have these.

    I haven’t bought anything from KlearGear, but even if I did I would not hold back from sharing my thoughts – negative or positive. I rarely review purchases, however I don’t shy away from giving real honest opinions when I do!

    I think this is just downright rude. These people paid money to KlearGear, who then refused to refund their purchase. If the product was not as described then they were within their right to a refund so it should be them suing KlearGear; KlearGear are the ones who broke the law by selling something which was not as described!

    Whatever happened to honesty and integrity? Why should anyone need to sue anyone?

    *Sigh*

    • Just to clarify PayPal refunded the money, and I presume they recover it from the company. And even if the small print might not stand up in court you still have to go to fight it, and that costs money.

  2. There was an interesting case here in Sydney in the last week where a disgruntled customer posted a scathing review on a cafe Facebook page. The owner of the cafe then responded with a very lengthy rant attacking the reviewer. The story managed to make it into a number of newspapers.

    The enforceability of website t’s & c’s is also interesting given that the majority of people never bother to read them. My understanding is that it is not sufficient any more to simply have your terms in the footer of your site and that you need to get actual acceptance of them for them to stand up in court.

    • The stand up in court issue is the problem. Many companies have no intention of winning, they don’t need legally tight small print. They scare the customer first, and if that doesn’t work they take them to court anyway and just proceed until the individual has to pull out because of lack of funds.

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