Companies Still Stumble Over Anti-Disparagement Clauses
I've written before about anti-disparagement clauses--clauses in contracts that purport to prohibit customers from posting bad reviews on social media or elsewhere online. Including these clauses is a bad business decision. They tend to backfire on the business, and enforceability has always been suspect. With the passage of the Consumer Review Fairness Act ("CRFA") back in December, such clauses may also violate Federal law.
None of this has stopped i-Geniuses, a company from Houston, Texas, from sending letters threatening customers who post negative reviews with fines of up to $2500 per criticism. The basis of the threat is a clause in the company's "Customer Satisfaction Policies" (the irony of the name isn't lost; the clause is there as of this writing but I suspect will be removed at some point). It's a clause that most customers probably never saw, and which likely wasn't enforceable under Texas' expansive anti-SLAPP statute even before passage of the CRFA.
Online reviews for i-Geniuses have, predictably, gone into the tank, and one wonders whether Christopher Cammack, the attorney who sent the letter linked above, was familiar with Texas' anti-SLAPP laws, or with the recently enacted CRFA, prior to advising his client.
The takeaway here, as always, is that if you're considering threatening customers who post negative reviews online you're probably making a mistake. If you find yourself in a situation where you're considering doing just that, contact our offices to discuss.