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What is the Consumer Review Fairness Act?

The "Consumer Review Fairness Act" ("CRFA"), also known as H.R. 5111 was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 14, 2016. The purpose of the CRFA is to make any clause in contract void which prohibits, or restricts an individual from engaging in an honest review of seller's goods, services, or conduct. In other words, anyone can say anything about you or your business online, as long as it is true.

So, what does this mean and how does it affect you? Well the CRFA will essentially empower an individual to write an honest review of a product they purchase or a service they receive, without fearing a lawsuit or other legal action against them.

Prior to enactment of the CRFA, crafty businesses inserted, "non-disparagement" clauses into terms of services, contracts and other legal binding documents. These clauses provided a legal mechanism where negatively reviewed businesses could sue and ultimately have negative reviews removed from the Internet, even if those reviews represented honest opinions and did not meet the legal definition of defamation. Instead of filing an action for defamation, libel and/or slander, often difficult cases and subject to a myriad of defenses, the seller could assert a breach of contract claim, which carries a longer statute of limitations (the time when a claim must be filed) and statutory shifting of attorneys' fees under some states' law.

Not only does the CRFA provide a safe haven for consumers to post honest, fair and truthful opinions of products and services, the FCC and States are empowered to file legal claims against companies who violate the CRFA. It will be interesting to see how this changes the way consumers review products, goods and services on websites such as yelp, ripoff report, pissed consumer and other so called "gripe" sites as there is no longer a fear of retribution by the purveyors of such good, products and services. However, the CRFA will have zero impact on false, defamatory and legally actionable online reviews.

If you believe that you have been unfairly targeted for a review, or if a defamatory post has been made about you, contact the attorneys at Dinn, Hochman & Potter, LLC to assist you in defending and protecting your rights.

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