November 29th, 2013
10:06 AM ET

Company Targets Couple for Posting Negative Review

A couple in Salt Lake City is facing a nightmare situation after doing what many us of do during the holidays - shop online – They received a hefty fine and a hit on their credit score- all because they posted a negative review about a bad customer service experience with a website. Their story serves as a lesson for anyone who shops online. 

John Palmer bought a few Christmas gifts for his wife Jen on the website in 2008, and he never imagined he's still be paying the price for it 5 years later, CNN's Pamela Brown reports. The Palmers say the items they ordered never arrived and the transaction was cancelled. 

After repeated calls to to find out what happened, Jen Palmer posted a review of the company on 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 stating that they would be fined $3,500 if the negative review posted on wasn't taken down in 72 hours. 

The email cited an obscure, non-disparagement clause in the terms of use contract that states, "Your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively prohibits" A clause the Palmers say was added to the agreement after they made their purchase. 

Legal experts warn that more and more companies are adding this type of language in the fine print as protection. 


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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Jason

    In a just system, Federal regulators would make very clear to corporations that these clauses are not only unenforceable and illegal in consumer contracts but that attempting to bill people for violating these clauses will be considered criminal mail fraud and extortion and prosecuted as such.

    December 1, 2013 at 1:00 am | Reply
  2. Darkguardian1314

    It's really bad when business do this. It's shady. They can add and remove the term in their policy without notice and it's not upfront or in the purchase process. It should be made illegal. For a customer to have to play amateur lawyer and read every terms of use for every website is impractical as Pamela Brown points out.
    Kleargear had removed the clause and are under investigation for using seals for BBB and other agencies without permission. Good for the Palmers for fighting back. I hope they win.

    November 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply

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