NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — If you have ever written a negative online review of a product or service it could wind up costing you thousands of dollars and causing countless headaches.
When John Palmer tried to buy his wife some Christmas gifts his holiday shopping spree turned into a nightmare that he is still living with 6 years later.
“We don’t want them to get away with this,” Palmer said.
The gifts that Palmer ordered off of KlearGear.com never arrived, he claimed. After 30 days Pay Pal canceled the transaction.
The couple repeatedly called the website to find out what happened but did not get an answer so they posted a review on RipOffReport.com, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.
“There is absolutely no way to get in touch with a physical human being. No extensions work,” the review said.
Three years later the Palmers received an email that was apparently sent by KlearGear. The email stated that the couple would be fined $3,500 if the negative review was not taken down within 72-hours.
The email cited an obscure non-disparagement clause in the company’s contract that prohibited customers from taking actions that would negatively impact the website.
Legal experts warn that this type of clause is appearing more frequently.
“The first amendment does not protect certain kinds of free speech and you can sign a contract giving away your free speech rights if it is a far contract,” CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan said, “This contract though is not fair and frankly it would be thrown out by any court.”
A vacation rental company threatened a $1o,000 fine for posts that contain “unreasonable negative sentiment”.
To keep this from happening retail experts suggested reading fine print carefully and making sure that the company you are patronizing is legitimate.
The incident has left the Palmers with bad credit.
“It was bad enough that when we went to get a second car it took them a month to find a bank that was willing to finance us,” Jen Palmer said.
The couple has decided to take the fight to court.
Experts added that if you do decide to write a review to make sure it is accurate in order to avoid a libel suit even if the company does not have a protection clause.
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