A Utah couple who was fined $3,500 for writing a negative review of Kleargear.com is now suing the merchant for retaliating against them, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday on the couple's behalf by Public Citizen.
Their story - first reported by CNN's affiliate in Salt Lake City KUTV– started in 2008 when John Palmer bought his wife's Christmas gifts off KlearGear.com. The items never arrived and the Palmers said the transaction was automatically canceled, CNN’s Pamela Brown reports.
After repeated calls to KlearGear.com to find out what happened, Jen Palmer posted a review of the company on RipoffRreport.com saying in part,"There is absolutely no way to get in touch with a physical human being. No extensions work."
More than three years later, the Palmers received an e-mail appearing to be from KlearGear.com stating that they would be fined $3,500 if the negative review posted on RipoffReport.com wasn't taken down within 72 hours.
"It's ridiculous that anyone would turn around and try to extort us like this, especially for doing something as simple as posting a review online," Jen Palmer says.
“But the Palmers apparently signed away that freedom when they agreed to Kleargear.com's non -disparagement clause forbidding them from taking any action that negatively impacts Kleargear.com,” Brown says.
The Palmers tried to take the review down but couldn't and Kleargear apparently reported the $3,500 bill as unpaid to a collections company. Attempts to settle this amicably turned up empty as the couple never heard back from the company.
According to the Palmer's, the company left them with no choice but to file a lawsuit.
“They are asking the court to declare they never owed the $3500 and are seeking compensation to be determined by a jury,” Brown says.
CNN repeatedly tried reaching out to Kleargear's phone number and email on its website but did not hear back.
Kleargear.com did respond via email back in November to CNN affiliate, KUTV, defending its actions saying, the request for the Palmers to take down their comment was not blackmail, but “a diligent effort to help them avoid the fine.”