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Fighting back: Many companies work to fend off negative online reviews

Posted May 17

If you're in the habit of submitting online reviews about business, you might need to watch what you say.

Some companies are fighting back against negative reviews.

Many people use online reviews before traveling, picking a restaurant or even buying a product. Those who post believe they're helping others, but some companies are responding in new ways.

What you might not know, though, is that until recently, companies could include non-disparagement clauses in their agreements. It allowed them to threaten customers with penalties over negative reviews.

Fighting Back: Many companies work to fend off negative online reviews

"We know of one Utah couple who was billed a $3,500 penalty after complaining in a post about a company's failed delivery," said Consumer Reports' Money Editor Margot Gilman. "A court later ruled that they didn't have to pay. But not before their credit took a hit."

A new federal law bars clauses that threaten or penalize people for posting negative reviews. Even so, it's still a good idea to be careful with what you say.

"First of all, your review has to be honest and accurate," Gilman said. "Companies can still successfully sue you for defamation if you make a false statement that can damage their reputation."

Gilman also advises not to generalize. Only speak about your own experience.

Consumer Reports says another way to try to protect yourself is if the company reaches out to offer an explanation after you've complained, consider changing or deleting your comment if you find it was incorrect or not supported by the facts.

You can let the company know you changed or deleted the comment, but Consumer Reports says don't admit any wrongdoing.

2 Comments

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  • Frank Curcio May 18, 9:01 a.m.
    user avatar

    I've come to the conclusion that online reviews are mostly useless, because for just about any product, service, or vacation spot, you will see both glowing and scathing reviews. It comes down to the fact that every experience is different, and many times what one person would find acceptable to enjoyable, another finds near unacceptable.

  • Russell Townshend May 18, 7:07 a.m.
    user avatar

    Most reviews are fake anyway. I try to check who posted each review and most of the time they are the only time a particular user has ever posted anything, or they are annonymous.