Your Honest Opinion Could Get You Sued - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Your Honest Opinion Could Get You Sued

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Do you rely on reviews when you're picking a product, doctor, or other service provider?

If you do, you might not be getting the full picture; thanks to clauses some companies are tucking into their contracts limiting online reviews.

In a KMPH FOX 26 News Special Report, we investigated a new consumer trend some experts say you need to be aware of.

Karina is excited for the big day: her dress is ready and the invites are out, but her wedding photographer was not making her comfortable.

She had one lined up, but got out of the contract, which had a cancellation period. "i just kind of was uncomfortable with their lack of responses and their kind of run around," said karina.

Karina wanted to warn other brides so she posted an online review and soon after, she got an e–mail from the photographer saying, "we kindly ask that you remove your posting". Noting she could face legal action for breach of contract.

Karina says she never realized her agreement said: "neither party will disparage the other".

Karina said, "I was livid. I was so upset that: a.) I couldn't review a vendor, b.) That you would email me, almost threateningly, so I felt– like I think I felt bullied."

Anja Winikka, of TheKnot.com says these non–review clauses are popping up in contracts for all sorts of wedding vendors, limiting what couples can say. "Prohibiting them from giving them a review that's less than a 5 star review."

These clauses can be hard to spot, so experts say you should be on the lookout for words like "confidentiality", "non–review" AND "non–disparagement." These are all cause for alarm.

Attorney Noah Davis says he's alarmed that these clauses are now used by some contractors, plumbers and dentists. Even some online merchants are putting them in their terms and conditions.

"I really am floored by the prospect that this is happening," said Davis.

Experts say it's happening because a company's online reputation can make or break the business — and some try to protect themselves against unreasonable customers.

Davis says the law is still evolving when it comes to these clauses. "It's hard to really put, put a finger on how the courts are going to rule on these sorts of things," said Davis.

Experts say, don't sign a contract until you understand everything in it.

If you spot a non–disparagement clause, ask the business why it's there, and if you really want to hire them, negotiate. "Don't sign those agreements if they don't allow you to take those clauses out of the contract," said Davis.

Karina removed her online review to avoid legal headaches, but worries this trend will result in other brides not getting the full picture when it comes deciding who to hire for their big day. "It's a huge game changer if you really can't speak freely about your experiences with some of these businesses," said Karina.

Experts say be cautious when you read online reviews that are all glowing, or a bit over the top, because that could actually be a red flag.

Instead, look for reviews that seem balanced, and if there's a negative review, look to see if and how the company responds.

 

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